pageok
pageok
pageok
Gay Rights Group Planning to Publicly Out Signers of Referendum Petition:

The Spokane Spokesman reports:

Petitions were being printed Tuesday for Referendum 71, which asks Washington voters to overturn a new law granting same-sex domestic partners many of the rights of spouses.

But those who sign the petitions may be in for a surprise. Some R-71 opponents have put up a Web site --- www.whosigned.org --- where they intend to post the names of all the required 120,577 signers.

Washington law apparently makes the names of petition signers publicly available, and if that's so then those who disagree with the petition certainly have a First Amendment right to publicize those names. To be sure, such public identification of people's political actions can deter people from exercising their political rights, and might even be intended to have that effect. (But the use of speech to pressure people through threat of social ostracism is constitutionally protected. And this is so even if the speech may have the effect of stimulating illegal discrimination against people -- Washington law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on their political activities -- and conceivably even violence.

(The site organizers are quoted as saying that "We think that it will help neighbors talk to each other," and the site also says that the publicity can help people verify the accuracy of the petitions. But I'm pretty sure that these won't be the main effects of the site's operation, and I suspect that they weren't the sole reasons for the site to be put up.)

Yet the rise in such outing tactics -- especially now that people can use the Internet to easily turn formally public records that are practically inaccessible into records that are truly available to everyone in seconds -- raises the question of just what records the government should make public, especially in unrestricted ways. Even if the government wants to let challengers check the validity of petition signatures, it can do so in ways that reveal less information, for instance by revealing only small but statistically valid samples, or (possibly) by requiring people who access the information to promise not to redistribute it (see, e.g., Seattle Times Co. v. Rhinehart, upholding such a protective order as to information released for purposes of litigation).

So my questions: Should referendum, initiative, recall, and candidate nomination signatures be treated more like voters' ballots, which are expected to be kept secret? Or should they be treated more like legislators' votes for proposed bills, which are expected to be made public? For that matter, how should we treat other political information, such as voters' party registration and the record of people's large campaign contributions, which is generally made public now? And what should be our ethical judgment about people's publicizing others' low-level political activity of this sort?

deathsinger:
Private.

The legislators are public because they are elected by the public. If we don't get the record on how they vote, how does the public know if they want to be represented by said individual. Also legislators are paid.
6.16.2009 2:00pm
Suggestion (mail):
Eugene:

you might consider rewording the title of this post. When I first read it I assumed by "out" you meant "reveal that the signers are homosexual." Upon reading the post and seeing that it concerned gay rights, my initial interpretation was confirmed. Only about halfway through was it clear that by "out" you only meant "reveal the identity of."
6.16.2009 2:07pm
ruuffles (mail) (www):
A related question: is there a constitutional right to secret ballot for state or federal elections? Is there a constitutional barrier to enacting a law that discloses how everyone voted, say, 30 days after the election?
6.16.2009 2:07pm
Houston Lawyer:
Private.

Otherwise just make every vote part of the public record.
6.16.2009 2:07pm
awt (mail):
Public.

These are petitions. Anyone signing one can see dozens of names already written. You have no expectation of privacy in your name's association with whatever cause you're signing in support of.
6.16.2009 2:08pm
ruuffles (mail) (www):

Private.

Otherwise just make every vote part of the public record.

You can argue the merits of whether petition signatures should be public or not, but its disingenuous to compare voting to signing a petition. Voting in an election is designed to be private; that is no one including the poll works and other election official knows who voted how. As awt said, from other signers to the petition collectors (and the companies that do such services), the names get seen by tons of eyes.
6.16.2009 2:14pm
enjointhis:
A fascinating topic, thank you.

This is myopic, but for me the division between public and private arises when a citizen assumes a public function. So votes in the legislature = fair game. Ballot initiatives signed by members of the commonweal... not so much.

I think opponents should be given the opportunity to establish signatures were procured by fraud/duress/etc.; but those actions should be private and limited in scope. I'm not advocating a Twombly standard of pleading (at least, yet), but I'd like to preclude fishing expeditions.

The consequences of my position? Deriving primary information from secondary sources (i.e., if X may/may not have signed the petition, can it fairly be inferred that X supports Proposition Y?). But that reaches a tertiary problem of ballot fraud; which while possible in the small sample-size, I think is unlikely en masse.

A challenging topic, though; and one in which the comments could well sway me. Thanks for exercising my brain today!
6.16.2009 2:15pm
pete (mail) (www):
Public.

If you want to complain to your government in secret, feel free to mail unsigned letters to your representatives.
6.16.2009 2:19pm
David Walser:
I believe the identities of those signing referendum, initiative, recall, nomination, and like petitions should be kept private -- for the same reasons we keep private how any particular voter votes. A secret ballot allows individual voters to exercise their franchise free from intimidation. Yes, it also allows them to secretly act on their private prejudices and bigotries -- which is bad, but we've long thought this downside to a secret ballot was more than justified by allowing the democratic process to be free from intimidation, coercion, and bribery.

Since it's clear that the threat of disclosing the identities of petition signers is (or will be in the future) made with the goal of intimidating potential petition signers, society should move to remove this source of intimidation and coercion from the political process.
6.16.2009 2:21pm
californiamom:
Private.

A petition is a vote to put a question on the ballot and therefore should be treated like a vote.
6.16.2009 2:21pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Yet the rise in such outing tactics -- especially now that people can use the Internet to easily turn formally public records that are practically inaccessible into records that are truly available to everyone in seconds -- raises the question of just what records the government should make public, especially in unrestricted ways.

It's a great question, and it goes beyond political expression. For instance, there is a lot of semi-private information that is contained in various kinds of legal records such as court files and property recordings; this worked reasonably well when you had to schlep down to a courthouse or the hall of records to get this information, but now it can all be collected, compiled, and mined via computer.

Especially given that people have a First Amendment right to talk about you (so long as they are truthful and do not reveal truly private facts that you have not made public in some way), it's highly problematic that things that were hard to access have now become so easy to access. There are no easy answers here, and this is going to be a big issue in years to come.
6.16.2009 2:21pm
ruuffles (mail) (www):

do not reveal truly private facts that you have not made public in some way

But ... but ... Nino keeps telling me that I have no right to privacy. *sobs*
6.16.2009 2:23pm
Steve P. (mail):
Public. I'm always in favor of more information, regardless of who it "helps" in a specific situation.
6.16.2009 2:23pm
Gilbert (mail):
Private

Think about it this way: for anyone who signs this, that fact will become the first hit when you Google their name.
6.16.2009 2:24pm
TNeloms:

awt:
You have no expectation of privacy in your name's association with whatever cause you're signing in support of.


ruuffles:
You can argue the merits of whether petition signatures should be public or not, but its disingenuous to compare voting to signing a petition. Voting in an election is designed to be private; that is no one including the poll works and other election official knows who voted how. As awt said, from other signers to the petition collectors (and the companies that do such services), the names get seen by tons of eyes.


Privacy isn't all or nothing. When you sign a petition you have a reasonable expectation of your identity being mostly private, meaning that a couple dozen people will see your name at most. That's very different from millions of people seeing it.

In any case, this is beside the point. Your arguments for why it *should* be public amount to pointing out that they're *actually* public already (even though they mostly aren't). I could make sure my name was the last on the page on a petition I sign or I could request a that the collector move to the next sheet after I sign (so that no subsequent signer would see my info). The question really is, should I be allowed to do that?

I would say yes, it should be private, or at the very least I should be able to request that it be kept private. For all the same reasons that it's a good thing to keep votes private.
6.16.2009 2:25pm
ruuffles (mail) (www):

A petition is a vote to put a question on the ballot and therefore should be treated like a vote.

In most jurisdictions, the number of valid signatures aren't even counted. The SoS just does a sampling and makes a guess as to whether there's enough. Not even close to voting.
6.16.2009 2:26pm
Allan Walstad (mail):
Interesting question. There's a line to be drawn somewhere, and we're not too far from it. I lean toward Deathsinger's answer. Where awt points out that some names on a petition are visible to other signers, it would surely be very difficult to gather up very many names by staring at a sheet while signing or pretending to sign, or pretending to change one's mind. Also, it shouldn't be terribly difficult to establish petitioning methods that don't display the names of previous signers, if there is concern about retaliation.
6.16.2009 2:26pm
one of many:
Of course Enjointhis one could argue that by signing a petition a citizen is engaging in a "public" function. I consider voting and petition signing to be civic functions, part of being a citizen, petitions are a means for the citizens to express their opinions.


I'm not certain how to handle this, my gut instinct is that there is something wrong with using publicity to attempt to sway people's civic actions (how long before it becomes commonplace to announce that all the signers of X petition will be publicly outed) through public censure.
6.16.2009 2:26pm
sk (mail):
"Private.

Otherwise just make every vote part of the public record.


You can argue the merits of whether petition signatures should be public or not, but its disingenuous to compare voting to signing a petition. Voting in an election is designed to be private; that is no one including the poll works and other election official knows who voted how. As awt said, from other signers to the petition collectors (and the companies that do such services), the names get seen by tons of eyes."

Private. It is not disengenuous to compare voting to signing a petition. While the signature of a petition may be seen by a few eyes (not 'tons'), it is also the expectation of a petition signer that such a signature, while not private, is one of a long list and thus, effectively anonymous. The necessity for people to see the name on a petition (because they are signing below it, or because they are involved in validating signatures) doesn't preclude the signer's assumption that he will not be singled out by any of those viewers.

A better analogy may be with standardized tests (SAT, etc). My name and my score are on the same piece of paper. They are seen by a few people (scorers, people who do statistical analyses of results-by race, income, etc). It doesn't follow that my SAT score should be publicized. While not truly anonymous, my SAT score is effectively anonymous.

Sk
6.16.2009 2:27pm
TNeloms:

But ... but ... Nino keeps telling me that I have no right to privacy. *sobs*


Actually he says you have no constitutional right to privacy (which Professor Volokh and the courts seem to agree with in this context, as you can see from the post), not that privacy isn't a good thing as a matter of policy.
6.16.2009 2:28pm
pete (mail) (www):
If you do a whois search for whosigned.org, it turns out that they have kept the domain registration information secret. Just thought I would throw that out there since apparently whoever registered the domain does not want to talk to their neighbor about it.


Registrant ID:GODA-017127470
Registrant Name:Registration Private
Registrant Organization:Domains by Proxy, Inc.
Registrant Street1:DomainsByProxy.com
Registrant Street2:15111 N. Hayden Rd., Ste 160, PMB 353
Registrant Street3:
Registrant City:Scottsdale
Registrant State/Province:Arizona
Registrant Postal Code:85260
Registrant Country:US
Registrant Phone:+1.4806242599
Registrant Phone Ext.:
Registrant FAX:
Registrant FAX Ext.:
Registrant Email:WHOSIGNED.ORG@domainsbyproxy.com
6.16.2009 2:28pm
arbitraryaardvark (mail) (www):
@ruuffles: Most state constitutions have a right of a secret ballot. Federally, whether this court would find a right to a secret ballot under the First Amendment or due process, I don't know. There are a number of First A. cases protecting privacy in association,and protecting voting rights, but I don't know of any offhand addressing the secret ballot, because it doesn't come up as a federal constitutional matter. Ask Richard Winger at ballot access news.
6.16.2009 2:30pm
Monty:
By signing in the presence of the petition collector, your signature has already had its privacy reduced...

If you wanted "secret petitioning" like a secret ballot, you would need a way to make it so that the petition orginizers don't even know who signed. Otherwise, you have a situation where the organizers can 'encourage' people to sign, but opponents cannot make use of the same methods to counter the petition.

There is alot that goes in to making elections fuction fairly with secret ballots, would secret petitioners be willing to incur those costs?
6.16.2009 2:30pm
ruuffles (mail) (www):

A better analogy may be with standardized tests (SAT, etc). My name and my score are on the same piece of paper. They are seen by a few people (scorers, people who do statistical analyses of results-by race, income, etc). It doesn't follow that my SAT score should be publicized. While not truly anonymous, my SAT score is effectively anonymous.

There's a reason the testing companies use scantron. Its cheaper to have machines do the scoring than humans. Nobody ever sees your name or school until they know something is wrong.

Even with written portions like AP exams you have these nice barcoded stickers that anonymize everything.
6.16.2009 2:30pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
Are addresses included with the names? Either way, I see a problem:

1. Will signers of unpopular or bitterly divisive petitions be harrassed in their homes or lose their jobs? It's obviously a lot easier to tell whether you're harrassing (or firing) the right Joe Schmoe if you have his address. Yahoo will give you a nice map with directions to his house, if you want to bring over some friends with bullhorns - or baseball bats, for that matter - in the middle of the night. We've already heard of people losing their jobs for contributing to California's Proposition 8: will that sort of thing become much more common?

2. If addresses are not included, things may be better in some ways, worse in other. Will some non-signers lose their friends or their jobs because they have the same names as signers?

My real name is fairly unusual -- I've never met anyone outside the family with the same last name -- but there are at least a dozen others in the world who share it. I've been confused with one of them once, when we lived at opposite ends of the same fairly large state. He was behind on his Visa payment, I had a non-delinquent Visa from the same bank, and I got a bunch of very unpleasant telephone calls from a collection agency before I convinced them I was not the Joe Schmoe they were looking for. I'd just as soon not go through that kind of thing again because one of my namesakes signed some petition that I didn't even agree with.
6.16.2009 2:31pm
TNeloms:

In most jurisdictions, the number of valid signatures aren't even counted. The SoS just does a sampling and makes a guess as to whether there's enough. Not even close to voting.


Why does the fact that the SoS generally applies certain statistical methods that are not the same as raw counting (though they have the exact same result, mathematically) have anything to do with the public/private issue? Obviously signing a petition is different from voting in many ways that have nothing to do with anything, and pointing out those differences doesn't really inform the debate.
6.16.2009 2:32pm
resh (mail):
Irony.

I thought the gay movement (namely, ssm) had as one of its predicates the right to privacy. Does that cease when one opines in contradistinction to their cause?
6.16.2009 2:32pm
ruuffles (mail) (www):

Actually he says you have no constitutional right to privacy (which Professor Volokh and the courts seem to agree with in this context, as you can see from the post), not that privacy isn't a good thing as a matter of policy.

Read the context of the quote I was responding to: it was written as a 1st amendment exception.
6.16.2009 2:33pm
Some Dude:
How about having a republican form of government instead of gathering signatures to make law?
6.16.2009 2:34pm
Floridan:
Public - Given all the information that is routinely made public (mugshots, political campaign donations, real estate sales and property tax information, etc.) I don't think that this is out of bounds.

Particularly in regard to state and local governments, very little information should be kept from the public.
6.16.2009 2:34pm
ruuffles (mail) (www):

Obviously signing a petition is different from voting in many ways that have nothing to do with anything, and pointing out those differences doesn't really inform the debate.

Yes it does. It means its dubious to compare to the vote.
6.16.2009 2:35pm
ruuffles (mail) (www):

I thought the gay movement (namely, ssm) had as one of its predicates the right to privacy. Does that cease when one opines in contradistinction to their cause?

I don't know. Why don't you start a petition to enact gay marriage in your state and we'll find out how "the gay movement" reacts.
6.16.2009 2:36pm
Hovsep Joseph (mail):
Public.

The act of signing a petition is already an inherently nonprivate act. The requirement for a minimum number of signatures on a petition exists to make sure there is sufficient public support to justify putting a proposal on the ballot. If it gets on the ballot, then everyone can vote privately. It seems reasonable to me that there should be a minimum number of people who are willing to publicly commit themselves supporting a proposal as a precondition for putting it on a secret ballot.
6.16.2009 2:37pm
californiamom:
Voting is kept private so that the vote is free from harassment by bullies. Free from attempts at intimidation. Free from reprisals.

The very same reasons apply to signing a petition. A person should be free to petition the government to have an issue put on the ballot without the threat of harassment, intimidation or reprisals in any way.
6.16.2009 2:39pm
ShelbyC:

So my questions: Should referendum, initiative, recall, and candidate nomination signatures be treated more like voters' ballots, which are expected to be kept secret?


Dunno. I good chunck of the reasoning behind keeping votes secret is to prevent "official" retaliation or favoritism, so the main purpose is to keep your vote secret from the government. That doesn't seem to apply here for obvious reasons.
6.16.2009 2:41pm
AJK:
Should the petition sponsors be able to publicly reveal the names of those who didn't sign?
6.16.2009 2:42pm
TNeloms:

Yes it does. It means its dubious to compare to the vote.


Those who compared it to the vote explained why their similarity meant that it would be good to treat the privacy issue similarly. Namely, it is important in a democracy for the people to be able to influence legislation without fear of pressure of any kind from others. (It was also explained why this is not true of legislators.) This reasoning seems to be as applicable to petitioning as to voting. It does not seem to be less applicable because of the differences that you cited.

I'm willing to be convinced that petitioning is different from voting in some way that invalidates this reasoning, I'm just asking you to provide that.
6.16.2009 2:43pm
ruuffles (mail) (www):

Should the petition sponsors be able to publicly reveal the names of those who didn't sign?

Is it that hard? You take the California phone books and remove the names of the people who signed. Ta da.
6.16.2009 2:44pm
Floridan:
I believe this is an old issue:
. . . . And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Names withheld at signers' request
6.16.2009 2:45pm
c.gray (mail):

Public.

The act of signing a petition is already an inherently nonprivate act.


Pheh.

I hope everyone making this argument understands the implications when it comes to privacy with respect to the telephone numbers they dial, the emails they send, the purchases they make with their credit cards, and their automobile registration information.
6.16.2009 2:47pm
Monty:
How can you claim that secret petitions allow people to petition without "fear of pressure of any kind from others". My employer circulates a petition personally, are you saying he wont know that I refused to sign it? My pastor circulates a petition in my church, will it not be pretty obvious when I don't sign?

What your infact advocating is one sided secrecy, the petitioning group will know exactly who refused to sign, and can do mean things to them, but opponents will lack that knowledge.
6.16.2009 2:47pm
ruuffles (mail) (www):

I believe this is an old issue:

. . . . And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Names withheld at signers' request

John Hancock must have balls proportional to his signature.

In any event the timing doesn't bear the privacy argument. The names were revealed only 6 months later in 1777, while the war did not end until 1783.
6.16.2009 2:53pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
Monty:
I think you're less subject to pressure if the names are not public: you can tell your boss and your pastor that you already signed the petition at the mall and it would be unethical to sign it again. If that doesn't convince them, point out that signing twice would tend to invalidate the petition if someone noticed. If signatures are eventually made public, they would eventually know that you lied to them, but if not, not. Sounds better to me.
6.16.2009 2:55pm
mcbain (mail):
if you want to make your political opinions public get a bumper sticker or run for office, otherwise your relationship with government should stay in the closet.
6.16.2009 3:00pm
martinned (mail) (www):

John Hancock must have balls proportional to his signature.

You beat me to it. I was just about to ask what the originalist answer to this question would be.

(FYI, I would say that the Gay Rights Group in question acted unethically, or at least ungentlemanly. The same goes for boycotts against business owners who supported Prop 8, a subject that prof. Volokh discussed in the past. The legal position is difficult, since EV's analysis is probably correct. Suffice it to say that I am glad to live in a country without ballot initiatives, where many of the other "outings" listed by Floridan above also don't exist.)
6.16.2009 3:00pm
martinned (mail) (www):
P.S. Earlier threads include this one, on the Prop 8 map that was created, and this one, about the forced resignation of a theatre director as a result of his support for Prop 8.

Fascinating question...
6.16.2009 3:03pm
Putting Two and Two...:
I would have thought that "conservatives" would look to the past, to history, to guide us in this issue as in all other issues (ahem). Petitioning the government is a public act and always has been, no? The point of petitioning is putting your name behind an idea. When most people lived in villages and towns, petitioning had consequences. Everyone knew. That was the whole idea.

P.S. Any Lutherans in the thread arguing for private petitioning should keep an eye out for lightening bolts.
6.16.2009 3:05pm
mcbain (mail):
a declaration of rebellion is not the same as a vote to put something on a general ballot in a functioning democracy.
6.16.2009 3:06pm
Kirk:
TNeloms,

Those are some fancy new definitions you have for "exact" and "mathematically" there!
6.16.2009 3:07pm
Fugle:
Let’s first be clear that this web-site is NOT intended to foster “discussion” amongst neighbors – it is far more insidious than that. I think it should be private for that reason alone.

If I sign the petition, and someone who thinks I am a homophobe for signing eggs my house, will they be charged with a hate crime?
6.16.2009 3:08pm
ChrisIowa (mail):

A related question: is there a constitutional right to secret ballot for state or federal elections? Is there a constitutional barrier to enacting a law that discloses how everyone voted, say, 30 days after the election?

The secret ballot is a bit over 100 years old, coming in as I have been able to determine, about 1900. Prior to that ballots were printed by the parties, or the local paper. It could be determined who you were voting for by the size shape or color of the ballot, which varied by where you got the ballot. So I doubt it could be determined to be a US constitutional right, but then, I am not a lawyer but an engineer who reads history.

Regarding the original question, it should be determined in advance either way so you know when you sign the petition and the republic will survive, but I tend to think that it should be secret. The amount of intimidation that went into collecting signatures is not known. The effect of that intimidation is negligible if an intimidated signature results in an election. It is much larger if an intimidated signature can be used in part to destroy a reputation.
6.16.2009 3:10pm
nasch (mail):
I see petitioning as a public act. Walking around in public gathering signatures in support of a petition is a public act. When a person is walking around visiting homes to get signatures for a partisan petition on a hot button issue such as gay marriage they will offensively impinge the home privacy of some who disagree with them. Some positive publicity will also flow to the the petitioners cause. I think signing a petition in such a scenario is a public act and should remain so.
6.16.2009 3:11pm
PersonFromPorlock:
The petition is clearly a petition to government for a redress of grievances and the publication of the names is clearly an attempt to discourage people from signing it, so the First Amendment appears to prohibit Washington state government from providing the names to the publishers.
6.16.2009 3:13pm
jab:
My opinion:

signing a petition: PRIVATE
donating small sums: PRIVATE
large contributions: PUBLIC
6.16.2009 3:14pm
DennisN (mail):
" We have ways of making you vote for us, or at least of making you abstain."

"The New Argentina," Evita.
6.16.2009 3:16pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
nasch:
You're mingling two different things when you write of "petitioning as a public act". Asking people to sign a petition is obviously public, and you suggest that signing it is therefore also a public act, or should be. How so? Holding up signs or displaying a bumpersticker urging people to vote for a particular candidate is also an obviously public act, but we do not therefore force the voters who see those signs and bumperstickers to reveal their individual votes.
6.16.2009 3:18pm
Mark N. (www):
As a matter of public policy (but not constitutional law), I'd say private. I think Dilan Esper gets it right that this is simply one example of the movement of all information that was previously theoretically public and semi-available, to being easily available and very public. It used to be easier to avoid these sorts of "should it be public or private?" questions by choosing the third options of "technically public, but in some hard-to-search form in the bowels of a courthouse somewhere". That sort of semi-privacy-by-obscurity is getting harder and harder to maintain.

A consequence seems to be an unfortunate collapsing of all areas of people's life into some mish-mash. Should you really have to worry about what your future employers will think of every club you join, every petition you sign, every political party's caucus you participate in, etc.? In previous eras, these things only became an issue in circumstances of extreme paranoia, like the McCarthyist search for Communists; and I don't think those were America's finest hour when it came to defending the spirit of its founding principles. If we bracket those kinds of exceptions, nearly everything else was ignored: if you happened to be the co-signer on a lease for the local bondage club, or were active in registering Libertarian Party chapters, or anything else, nobody was going to dig that up unless you were running for public office or a high-level CEO or something. Now it might come up in a search even when hiring for jobs with no real public visibility.

I think change in behavior will solve a little of that: once it becomes true that everyone has piles of information out there, you won't be able to hire anybody at all if you insist on only people who have led an 100% boring life. But it's not going to solve a lot of the chilling effects that are increasingly making people worried about how what they do in the political sphere or even their private lives will affect their employment or public status. I think some significant tilting towards keeping identifiable information about individuals private will be needed for that.
6.16.2009 3:18pm
geokstr (mail):

pete:
If you do a whois search for whosigned.org, it turns out that they have kept the domain registration information secret. Just thought I would throw that out there since apparently whoever registered the domain does not want to talk to their neighbor about it.

Interesting. Privacy for me, but not for thee.

From what I can tell from the IDs posting comments, I'd bet it would break down along ideological lines, with the ones favoring making names public:

- in favor of SSM
- in favor of card check

Coincidence?
6.16.2009 3:19pm
Crunchy Frog:

P.S. Any Lutherans in the thread arguing for private petitioning should keep an eye out for lightening bolts.

What a bizarre statement. How exactly does that follow?
6.16.2009 3:21pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
Crunchy Frog:
I assume he's alluding to Martin Luther very publicly nailing his theses to the cathedral door.
6.16.2009 3:27pm
TNeloms:

Kirk:

Those are some fancy new definitions you have for "exact" and "mathematically" there!


Ha, you're right. Replace "the exact same" with "practically the same" or something like that. :)
6.16.2009 3:28pm
ruuffles (mail) (www):

If you do a whois search for whosigned.org, it turns out that they have kept the domain registration information secret.


Interesting. Privacy for me, but not for thee.

Oh for crying out loud, if you actually went to the website, you'd see his name in his email address at the bottom.

Heck , how about just reading the article

“We think that it will help neighbors talk to each other,” said Brian Murphy, 45, a Seattle resident who helped create the site.
6.16.2009 3:29pm
Putting Two and Two...:

What a bizarre statement. How exactly does that follow?


When I think of the act of petitioning, Martin Luther comes to mind for me. Note: more than a few consider me a bit odd.
6.16.2009 3:32pm
Guest12345:
ruuffles:

Is it that hard? You take the California phone books and remove the names of the people who signed. Ta da.


First, this isn't the same thing at all. The question meant was "who declined to sign when given the opportunity". There will be plenty of people who are in the phone book that never had a choice either way.

Second, as a Washington resident, I would be shocked if California phone books were used for any purpose relating to a Washington state activity.
6.16.2009 3:32pm
Guest12345:
That language indicates that there are other people involved. The double standard still appears to exist.


“We think that it will help neighbors talk to each other,” said Brian Murphy, 45, a Seattle resident who helped create the site.
6.16.2009 3:35pm
Steve P. (mail):
From what I can tell from the IDs posting comments, I'd bet it would break down along ideological lines, with the ones favoring making names public:

- in favor of SSM

If there were a petition to allow SSM, and opponents wanted to make the signatories of that petition public, I'd be in favor of it. I know it goes against your nature, but I'm not sure a sweeping generalization like that is always accurate.

Still, there probably are some people who are basing their preference on the specific issue (SSM) and not the overall question of whether petition signatories should be public information. I certainly hope that most of the commenters are taking principled stands, whether that be for or against.
6.16.2009 3:39pm
Lib (mail):
Petition sigs should be private.

First, in order to vote on a proposition, it has to get on the ballot. What good is the private vote on a matter if the matter itself never makes it to the ballot because the public is so intimidated by the threat, implied or actual, of retaliation by family, co-workers, employers, neighbors, and/or random nuts that the petition drive is not successful?

Second, signing a petition does not necessarily mean the signer agrees with the measure or expects to vote for it - just that the issue should be put to the people. This is a nuanced position that most people who flock to WhoSigned.org are not going to understand. I don't sign a lot of petitions, but about a third of them that I sign, I have no intention of voting for the proposal. In some cases I just believe the citizens should be able to decide on the matter and don't have a sense for which way they will decide. In other cases I am hopeful that a crushing defeat at the ballot box will put the matter to rest for good (or, at least for few pandering cycles). (Of course, I'm in California so we tend to have petitions on such weighty issues as whether the public areas of the DMV offices should be painted "Cotton White" or "Whitetail").
6.16.2009 3:49pm
Jmaie (mail):
A secret ballot allows individual voters to exercise their franchise free from intimidation. Yes, it also allows them to secretly act on their private prejudices and bigotries -- which is bad...

Quite the opposite. I think it good that people can vote their conscience regardless of how unpopular their opinion might be. Your "good and proper" thoughts today just might be out of favor tomorrow.
6.16.2009 3:50pm
pete (mail) (www):

Oh for crying out loud, if you actually went to the website, you'd see his name in his email address at the bottom.


I saw that email address when I went to the website, but the website also uses a lot of "we" language so presumably there are more people involved in creating the site who are making some effort to remain secret. It is not clear that it is registered to Murphy for instance and it may be some other group/person that is actually paying for the bandwidth etc.

I just thought it was a funny that a group of people outing other people were trying to keep their own domain registration information secret and I think for the most part that petition names should be public as I noted above, although I am open to being convinced otehrwise.
6.16.2009 3:50pm
The Unbeliever:
We think that it will help neighbors talk to each other
Shouldn't the decision between talking or not be the individuals' own private choice? Why should a name on a petition necessitate a conversation--if he thinks discussion is a worthy end goal, won't the existence of the Referendum itself be sufficient grounds?

He's being disingenuous, at the very least. He means the site will help certain idealogues know exactly who they should target for a talking-to.
6.16.2009 3:52pm
Some Dude:
This might be a good time to ask if the guarantee of a republican form of government was incorporated over the states as a right of the people.
6.16.2009 3:55pm
ruuffles (mail) (www):

First, this isn't the same thing at all. The question meant was "who declined to sign when given the opportunity". There will be plenty of people who are in the phone book that never had a choice either way.

That's another reason why signing a petition is different than voting. Suppose there's an election and this question is on the ballot. Then there's several outcomes:

1) you don't goto the polls
2) you submit a ballot but it is clear you don't vote on that question
3) you vote 'yes'
4) you vote 'no'
5) you write some random gibberish on the ballot

But in the case of a petition, only 1 and 3 are clear. How does the person circulating the petition determine if its "declined" rather than the person just wasn't home? Or they

-> didn't answer solications
-> didn't speak english
-> yelled at petitioner from waking up from a nap

etc.
6.16.2009 3:57pm
Kazinski:
If I see the petition, I'll sign it. This sort of intimidation campaign should cause a backlash.
6.16.2009 3:57pm
Cornellian (mail):
The business of petition signature gathering (and it is a business) is already highly susceptible to fraud. Allowing people presenting a petition to hide the identities of the signers will just make it even worse.
6.16.2009 3:57pm
Prospero (mail):
What is most interesting about this entire topic, to me, is that it illustrates how the concept of shame has been turned upside down. Lesbians and gay men were expected to be ashamed of their sexual orientation (and many were) for centuries. Our political work during the late twentieth century in particular reinforced, in us, that we had nothing to be ashamed of.

The people who want the fact of their signing this petition kept private are ironically arguing for their own kind of closet, just at the time that lesbians and gay men are abandoning theirs. I imagine many heterosexuals take some pride in what they believe to be standing up for traditional heterosexual marriage, and I am always happy to discuss that with them. But I don't think it's fair, either of them, or for the public discussion, for them to want to use the electoral process, but distance themselves from the discussion that necessarily follows from that act.

This has always been a very personal issue for lesbians and gay men -- the most personal of all issues. The political discussion of homosexuality can be quite uncomfortable for many people (as it has always been for homosexuals who need to come out publicly in order to fight for their own equality). But if we must have this discussion as a public matter, it seems entirely reasonable to me that, as gays had to come out publicly to argue their case, those who have a different position should do the same. I would have to question the good faith and sincerity of those who want to use politics to deny people rights but don't want people to know that's what they've taken a step to accomplish.
6.16.2009 4:00pm
jaed (mail):
Well... if the names are being used to deter people from freely signing such a petition, and I think it's clear that they are, then I'd say public policy requires some way of countermanding that effect. This could be making the information private.

(It might also involve penalties for harrassment based on vote or petition signature, enhanced penalties for criminal acts based on vote or signature, penalties for incitement to harrassment, etc. But this way is complicated and would require many judgment calls as to motive, therefore seems less desirable. Simpler to not release the information in the first place.)

The same logic would apply to publicizing political donations, and I've thought for a while that those should be private. I speak as someone who has personally been intimidated about making such donations, knowing that my name, candidate or issue, home address (!), and employer (!!) will be available in a searchable database as a result. It makes it dead simple for an employer to retaliate against employees with disfavored views, even if the employee keeps politics strictly out of the workplace. The potential for harassment and even criminal attack is also a factor, even if a minor one - those databases are around forever, after all.
6.16.2009 4:02pm
ruuffles (mail) (www):

I speak as someone who has personally been intimidated about making such donations, knowing that my name, candidate or issue, home address (!), and employer (!!) will be available in a searchable database as a result. It makes it dead simple for an employer to retaliate against employees with disfavored views, even if the employee keeps politics strictly out of the workplace.

In many states, California for one, it's illegal for an employer to take action based on an employee's political views.

The potential for harassment and even criminal attack is also a factor

Those are already illegal, which is why police officers, prosecutors, and judges names are available in trials.
6.16.2009 4:07pm
Putting Two and Two...:

principled stands


One should keep in mind that the Yes-on-8 campaign used public records of donations to try to extort funds from companies which had contributed to No-on-8. At the very, very top of the organization, they decided to use public information to intimidate.

Also, opponents to SSM used bait-and-switch tricks while gathering signatures in Mass. They told people they were signing petitions to ban horse meat. IIRC, it was the disclosure of signatories names that helped expose the fraud.

Any attempt to "fix" the petitioning process should include more than just privacy concerns.
6.16.2009 4:12pm
adam Scales:
Eugene, this certainly is an interesting discussion.

One question I haven't seen addressed in my (admittedly, increasingly quick) read of the comments is, "Why should petition signing be public at all?"

I am referring here to the type of petition at issue, not a general plea for government action. Suppose 500,000 signatures are required to place an item before the voters. Is there any reason other than administrative convenience for physical signatures to be gathered in the traditional way? It seems to me that the point of a signature requirement to ensure that a sufficient number of voters are interested in an issue; it is NOT to ensure that those voters are publicly interested.

In other words, I assume that within a few years, voters in California will be able to download the "Democracy" App. onto their iPhone 9000s, and electronically approve the placement of question before their fellow citizens (let's put to one side whether they''ll actually do their voting online). It seems to me that supporters of the "Public" view here ought to feel that this information should be accessible to anyone with a "WhoSigned" App. Somehow, I doubt it.

If I'm right in those doubts, I think it's because the essence (as distinct from the form) of the act of signing for an initiative really is more like voting than it is a public protest in front of City Hall. And voting has a strong norm of anonymity.

I take Steve P. at his word, but I do think that publicizing efforts like these tend to align neatly with the publicizers' aspirations. On the other hand, I would probably support making much, much less government-held information about individuals public at all. I'm not sure if that cuts neatly one way or the other, ideologically speaking.
6.16.2009 4:14pm
Andrew Locatus (mail):
Eugene is right.

This is outing, pure and simple, and outing is wrong. It does not matter whether the outing relates to sexual orientation or political affiliation. It is wrong to take personal information of others and disclose it without their permission. It is especially wrong to out the personal information of others when there might be repercussions such as social ostracism. While it makes perfect sense to out a politician who is a public official or a public figure who leads a social movement or a politically active organization, it is harmful to democracy to out a private citizen. This because a private citizen who is, more or less, minding his own business, lacks enough power to be a threat to opposing viewpoints. The principle is that force should be applied in a proportionate manner. The harm is that ordinary citizens will refuse to participate even on a basic and low-level manner, leading to the domination of politics by only those who have public recognition and massive organizational clout and the ability to finance multiple lawsuits for slander.
6.16.2009 4:17pm
MarkField (mail):
Let me suggest a better analogy than voting.

Suppose the same people who signed the petition had, instead, exercised their right to assemble in front of the Statehouse and demanded a law against gay marriage. Would it be right/moral/legal/constitutional for someone to take pictures of the crowd and post those pictures?
6.16.2009 4:20pm
Allan Walstad (mail):
If I'm not mistaken, the main reason for having ballot petitions is to determine that there are enough people who would like to see an issue on the ballot (presumably to vote for it), so that ballots are not swamped with vast numbers of initiatives having the support of only one or a few people. The names and addresses serve the purpose of helping to validate that there really are that many different individuals who supported the petition. It is the petition circulators who are undertaking a public action and putting themselves on the line. In that light, I think there's less reason to reveal the names of all those people who endorsed the ballot petition, any more than their names should be revealed when they cast their vote at the polls.
6.16.2009 4:22pm
Andrew Locatus (mail):

Would it be right/moral/legal/constitutional for someone to take pictures of the crowd and post those pictures?



Assembling in public is activism. That is quite different from signing a petition or voting.
6.16.2009 4:23pm
justalurker (mail):
Contributions to political parties and campaigns are also supposed to be public records. But previous court decisions have upheld the right to withhold the identities of contributors to the Freedom Socialist, Socialist Workers and Communist Party USA on the 'reasonable probability' that exposing their identities would subject them to 'threats, harassment or reprisals'.

Does anyone 'reasonably' think that posting the petition signatures is not likely-- if not, indeed, intended-- to facilitate harassment, despite the website creators spin about "helping neighbors talk to each other"? Can't an unwanted, unsolicited 'dialog' of this nature be equally well interpreted as harassment?
6.16.2009 4:40pm
Officious Intermeddler:
Public.

To me, this is a straightforward can versus should question. I regard the cretins who are publicizing the names as contemptible thugs who are doing this not out of any high-minded desire to improve public discourse, but merely to expose their political enemies to intimidation and harassment. But I can conceive of no respectable argument that somebody has a reasonable expectation of privacy in their name signed to a public petition.
6.16.2009 4:41pm
Perseus (mail):
a declaration of rebellion is not the same as a vote to put something on a general ballot in a functioning democracy.

It was a declaration of war.
6.16.2009 4:45pm
Putting Two and Two...:

(The site organizers are quoted as saying that “We think that it will help neighbors talk to each other,” and the site also says that the publicity can help people verify the accuracy of the petitions. But I'm pretty sure that these won't be the main effects of the site's operation, and I suspect that they weren't the sole reasons for the site to be put up.)


What will be "the main effects"?
6.16.2009 4:55pm
fishbane (mail):
Especially given that people have a First Amendment right to talk about you (so long as they are truthful and do not reveal truly private facts that you have not made public in some way), it's highly problematic that things that were hard to access have now become so easy to access.


This is an interesting topic. Really, a better way to think about the "hard' vs. 'easy' access question is to look at it as the cost having dropped to access the information - this means that those who can't, for instance, hire a PI or lawyer (or take tons of time off of work) now have a better chance of having access to the same information, which is a democratising effect. That it becomes so easily searchable is a change in kind; it allows entirely new uses of the information, some of which I suspect we haven't yet seen.

The former doesn't really bother me, the latter does.

I don't know yet where I fall on the question. On the one hand, I have no problem asking people to own their political actions. Sunlight is a great disinfectant and I generally believe more information is much better than less. On the other, on contentious topics and public information can be dangerous, as Tiller's assassination reminds us. (I don't think publicizing his address, church, etc. led directly to the terrorist being enabled to assassinate him, but the intimidation factor and the enabling of crazy terrorists is clearly problematic and the event brings these things to mind.)
6.16.2009 4:57pm
Steve P. (mail):
It seems to me that supporters of the "Public" view here ought to feel that this information should be accessible to anyone with a "WhoSigned" App. Somehow, I doubt it.

Why not? It seems to me that, if you support the view that petition signatories should be public, it shouldn't matter how that signing takes place. If I want to "sign" a petition, even via my iPhone, my name should appear in a list of signatories.

The difference between signing a petition and voting (where, I'll agree, votes should be private) is that the petition process is intended to be public — I want this to come to a vote, here is a list of people that agree with me, now make it so!

But, like I said before, I tend to err on the side of more public information over less.
6.16.2009 5:05pm
dr:


Would it be right/moral/legal/constitutional for someone to take pictures of the crowd and post those pictures?


Assembling in public is activism. That is quite different from signing a petition or voting.


I disagree. Different from voting, yes -- we absolutely have a right to expect privacy in the polling booth. But I think this analogy holds up. When you sign your name to a petition, it's a public act of support for the resolution. In fact, I'd say that's even more true for a petition than it is for the above-described public gathering, which I could be attending as a curious onlooker (or even an innocent passerby).

But signing a petition is, and I think has traditionally been intended as, a public declaration. You're literally signing the thing to demonstrate your agreement -- and in most cases, the language on the petition is a declaration to that effect, is it not?
6.16.2009 5:12pm
pmorem (mail):
The question of legality is rather beyond my scope.

I am troubled by this tactic, as well as others employed by supporters of SSM (particularly the prop 8 "mormon invaders" ad).

I'm also a voter in Washington.

In light of the above, I have an opportunity to publicly register my protest by signing the petition. I will attempt to do so, if I can find a way to do so.

Furthermore, if supporters of SSM are obnoxious about it to me, I will vote for R-71 as well, even though I'm otherwise completely unmoved by supporting arguements.
6.16.2009 5:16pm
pintler:

Interesting. Privacy for me, but not for thee.


In related news, City of Seattle LGBT Club members sue
to prevent their identities being released.


If I see the petition, I'll sign it. This sort of intimidation campaign should cause a backlash.


Same here, and I don't usually sign initiative petitions. And if the initiative makes it to the ballot, I'll vote against it
because I support SSM.
6.16.2009 5:22pm
JM Hanes:
When you put your name to a petition, it is a public act to which no expectation of privacy can be reasonably attached. Indeed, is not establishing public support the sole purpose a petition? The idea the we have a right to petition -- and thus influence -- government anonymously seems almost bizarre.

Promulgating the addresses of petitioners, however, strikes me as a substantively different matter. There is no reason that the collection of addresses which may necessary for official authentication should not be confined to that usage alone, especially when publication can be demonstrably tied to cases of verbal and physical harassment.
6.16.2009 5:23pm
MarkField (mail):

Assembling in public is activism. That is quite different from signing a petition or voting.


In addition to what dr said -- and compare, say, Madison's Memorial and Remonstrance as an example -- both assembly and petition are in the same part of the First Amendment. It's pretty hard to think of any legal or constitutional reason why the rule would be different for one.

That doesn't get to moral or policy questions, of course, but, like dr, I always thought of a petition as an expressly public gesture.
6.16.2009 5:36pm
adam Scales:
Steve P.

Thanks for your reply, but I wonder whether we are imagining slightly different conceptions of what a "petition" is, in this context.

I agree with you that most of the time, I think of a petition in just the way you describe. And that looks like a pretty public act.

However, as I understand the process in California, the gathering of signatures is more like a lightly supervised vote to have a vote. Probably, it is true that people can be swayed by seeing pages and pages of their fellow (though effectively anonymous) citizens supporting the view that there should be an actual vote. But, I understand the signature role more modestly; it simply assures that enough people are interested (perhaps even abstractly) in the opportunity to vote on the matter.

Understood that way, I disagree with you that it is necessarily a public act.
6.16.2009 5:36pm
Gary Imhoff (mail) (www):
There's a lot of misinformation and misunderstandings in the comments here. First, all that signing a petition for an initiative, referendum, or candidate supports is putting that issue or person on the ballot -- it doesn't imply support for that issue or candidate. Second, the purpose of petitions is to show that an initiative or candidate has some minimal amount of public support or interest to be placed in an election. (The alternative is usually a filing fee, which puts a financial requirement on candidates or initiative sponsors.) Third, proponents of an initiative or supporters of a candidate have a responsibility to gather a certain number of valid signatures of registered voters (usually a certain percentage of registered voters). But the signatures and the voters have to be valid -- they can't be fraudulent, forged, or faked. Opponents of the initiative or candidate have to have the opportunity to examine the petitions to determine whether the supporters have used fraud. (In the District of Columbia, I was part of one effort that showed an incumbent mayor had submitted over 8,000 fraudulent and forged signatures in his reelection petition of 10,000 signatures; and of another effort that showed an initiative's proponents had fewer than 14,000 valid signatures in its petition of over 56,000 signatures.) Petitions have to be public and they have to contain enough information (names, addresses, and visible signatures to compare with voter registration cards) so that they can be checked. (Unfortunately some signature-gathering firms specialize in skirting the law, and they have professionalized and increased petition fraud, largely replacing the old, amateur, kitchen-table forgeries that used to dominate the field.)

The problem is that, starting with California's Proposition 8, some radical gay organizations have decided to target the signers of petitions that support the traditional definition of marriage, and to publicize their signatures so that they can be harassed or boycotted. I can think of only three practical solutions for that problem. First, convince the radical gay groups that this is counterproductive and harms their cause. It certainly has in California. The press could be very useful if it would stigmatize the people who use disreputable methods like this, rather than the people who sign petitions. This could cause more moderate gay organizations to put pressure on the radical groups, and get them to stop it. Second, law enforcement could identify evidence of actual episodes of illegal harassment, prosecute the people who have committed it, and see whether there is any direct and provable connection between the groups that publicize petition signatures and the harassers. Third, although I think petitions serve a valuable purpose, states could just drop the petition requirement, and put on the ballot any candidate who registers and any initiative or referendum that is proposed.
6.16.2009 5:40pm
John Humboldt (mail):

Assembling in public is activism. That is quite different from signing a petition or voting.


I disagree. Different from voting, yes -- we absolutely have a right to expect privacy in the polling booth. But I think this analogy holds up. When you sign your name to a petition, it's a public act of support for the resolution. In fact, I'd say that's even more true for a petition than it is for the above-described public gathering, which I could be attending as a curious onlooker (or even an innocent passerby).

But signing a petition is, and I think has traditionally been intended as, a public declaration. You're literally signing the thing to demonstrate your agreement -- and in most cases, the language on the petition is a declaration to that effect, is it not?




Practical obscurity. A “public” petition is filed with a local Board of Elections, but typically is not (has not been) available online readily and so is (was) hidden by the practical obscurity of obtaining the data. In other words, you had to travel down to the Board of Elections to look up the information. In light of that, the argument that a petition is a public declaration is a bit misguided.

Absent-minded routine. Whenever a candidate seeks admission to a ballot in order to run for elected office, a petition is required, assuming the candidate lacks the imprimatur of a registered political party that can waive him through the process. Many candidates seek to obtain ballot access: dozens each year in multiple races for state and local elections. One may be accosted in the street by numerous supporters of numerous candidates soliciting signatures. Signing a petition is less a public declaration than a free giveaway, assuming the candidate is not crazy. I sign any petition from a candidate who is not insane (i.e., racist, Communist, wearing a tin-foil hat, etc.). The notion that signing a petition indicates agreement with the views of a candidate is ridiculous: perhaps you simply think ballot access should be relatively easy.

Lying can hurt. A person standing in the midst of a public gathering is doing just that. The picture of it is not disclosing anything untrue. A petition signature, which is not truly public, can be distorted to represent a falsehood. The harm generated from the falsehood (“You secretly support Candidate XYZ’s insane political views!”) can be life destroying. We ought not to take lightly the destruction of one’s social life simply because they privately hold certain political views. Now, if Mr. A attends the rally as a show of solidarity, that’s his affair. But if he chooses to stay home, it isn’t very fair to publicize that he signed a petition to put on the ballot the politician speaking at the rally. Otherwise, no one could choose to be discreet. Discretion is the source of personal dignity.
6.16.2009 5:42pm
Seamus (mail):
The act of signing a petition is already an inherently nonprivate act.



So was voting, once upon a time. People in colonial America had to stand up and declare who they were voting for, to the cheers and jeers of the assembled crowds.

We decided over 100 years ago to get away from that system, because we thought the danger of intimidation and retaliation was too great. I would think the same considerations should apply to signing a referendum petition. The only reason we require petitions for referenda at all is that we don't want to waste electoral resources on proposals that are supported by a trivial number of voters and therefore have no chance of succeeding. The actual identity of the persons signing the petition is irrelevant, except as necessary to verify that the signers are real voters, and that they haven't signed the petition multiple times. Those factors are matters of public concern, but the identities of individual signers are not.
6.16.2009 5:43pm
MartyA:
This is wonderful! Look at the potential! When I've signed petitions, they've asked for my signature, my printed name, my address and my 'phone number. All that information is necessary to determine if I am a "qualified" signer. The other side's objective is to "disqualify" as many signatures as possible so the issue dies. The issue of confidentiality is already gone.
The beauty of the proposal, if I understand it, is that the petition signers and their information will be posted on the internet AND WILL BE SEARCHABLE. I'm not concerned too much with the current question but it will be wonderful in the future to make sure that community organizers don't stuff the ballot boxes.
Just think of doing a match for the address of the labor exchange on Main Street, the Alderman's law office or the Congressman's girfriend's office. We should also post the voting records so pajamahadeem can keep the incumbents honest.
6.16.2009 5:44pm
gab:
Gary Imhoff states:


Second, the purpose of petitions is to show that an initiative or candidate has some minimal amount of public support


and then goes on to explain why the signatures should not be public. Or am I missing something?
6.16.2009 6:08pm
deenk:
There is currently a petition campaign in CA to have Prop. 8 repealed. Presumably the signers names will be public. Therefore, we can see whether those who supported/opposed public disclosure of signers identities change their tunes.
6.16.2009 6:11pm
Steve P. (mail):
adam Scales —

Based on your comment, I wanted to make sure I have a better understanding of the petition process at issue here, so I found this link. It's a little old, but I'm going to assume the basic information is accurate.

Basically, after the initiative is drafted, titled, and etc., it gets handed back to the proponents, who can begin circulating for signatures (for a maximum of 150 days). If that initiative gets enough signatures, it gets put on the ballot. It's almost like petitioning the people, bypassing the legislature. I understand your argument, but it still seems more like a traditional petitioning process to me than a "vote to have a vote".

Also, I'm not thrilled by the idea that the government can say, "Nope, too many invalid signatures, this can't go on the ballot. What, you want to see the signatures? Sorry, that's private." (...or flip it, and have the executive branch put something on the ballot, bypassing the legislature, without having to prove the signatures exist.)
6.16.2009 6:11pm
Brian K (mail):
In related news, City of Seattle LGBT Club members sue
to prevent their identities being released.


somehow i don't think there is a petition involved here.
6.16.2009 6:12pm
Barbra:
Me to gab. The purpose of signing a petition is so that your support will be made known. There is no reason it should be kept private
6.16.2009 6:16pm
Bob VB (mail):
Public

I thought the gay movement (namely, ssm) had as one of its predicates the right to privacy.
Signers have no expectation of privacy, these signatures have always been public record. People signing petitions are acting in a way like legislators, deciding what provisions are going before the public for vote. For a referendum in Washington that takes just 4% of the previous elections voter total - just 1 out of 25 voters deciding what's on the ballot.

People just need to buck up and take a bit of responsibility for their legislative activism.

Of note is the true organization doing this KnowThyNeighbor.org has done this 4 previous times without incident and this is just all an artificial brouhaha by the unethical people pushing the referendum.

The referendum will only disallow some of the domestic partnership contract features passed this legislative session. Won't stop domestic partnerships, has nothing directly to do with marriage other than its for same gender couples and those with a member over 62 if they choose.

Their beset upon petition says at the top:

Preserve Marriage, Protect Children

and then goes on to display 'highlights'

The legislature just passed a law that effectively makes same sex marriages legal. By signing R-71 we can reverse that decision and protect marriage as between one man and one woman.

If same-sex marriage becomes law, public schools K-12 will be forced to teach that same-sex marriage and homosexuality are normal... even over the objections of parents. Sign R-71 to protect children.


These people are tricking voters into signing their petition - people have a right to know who's been tricked and if they are friends and neighbors ask them if they knew what they were signing.
6.16.2009 6:18pm
Steve P. (mail):
Gary,
First, convince the radical gay groups that this is counterproductive and harms their cause. It certainly has in California.

If it's counterproductive and has harmed their cause, then they'll eventually stop (recognizing the PR damage being done), or lose all support. So what's the problem?

John,
A petition signature, which is not truly public, can be distorted to represent a falsehood. The harm generated from the falsehood (“You secretly support Candidate XYZ’s insane political views!”) can be life destroying.

I'm pretty sure just about anything can be distorted to represent a falsehood. That doesn't strike me as a sound reason to restrict completely accurate information, however.
6.16.2009 6:25pm
Guest12345:

The purpose of signing a petition is so that your support will be made known.


Actually the purpose of signing the petition is to show government officials that there is interest in a subject among the electorate. The requirement that petitions have a particular number of signatures is merely so that public resources won't be wasted on managing an vote on a topic that only four people are interested in. What "the public" means in these kinds of discussions is that the interested parties include everyone at large, rather than a small interest group. It doesn't mean known to all or happens in a non-private location.

Attempting to pressure people by "outing" petition signers is petty and may well be hurting your cause as much as helping it. As people have pointed out, sometimes petitions are signed because the signer believes that the question should be raised, not because they want to proclaim their stance on the question. Turning around and trying to raise up an outcry against signers is unjust and anti-democratic.
6.16.2009 6:27pm
Randy R. (mail):
I vote for the status quo, which is public.

I think that the real issue here is the internet. This newfangled thing has made it much easier to obtain information than in the past. Years ago if you wanted to know who signed a petition, you had to go down to the city hall, look it up and sort through a whole box of petitions to see who signed it. This had the effect of making your signature public only to those who took the immense trouble of looking it up.

Today, it's just a click away from finding out the entire contents. Not too long ago, we went through these exact same debates regarding bankruptsy, divorce, criminal records, housing sales, all sorts of public transactions. Cummulatively, we have less privacy as a result, even though the laws haven't changed.

If you want to change this law, then I would suggest a complete overhaul of the entire internet. Make decisions regarding what can be posted on the internet and what can't be. The worst way to go about this, in my opinion, would be to do it ad hoc, or issue by issue. Let's develop a policy of what information can be made easily available, and what information you should have to hunt for.

A few years ago, several doctors who performed abortions had their names, address, and photos posted on a website. Those who died had a big red X across their photo. The remaining doctors sued, claiming an infringement of their privacy. SCOTUS ruled that this information was publicly available, and they had not right to restrict that information. The website remained up for a very long time. (Dont' know if it's still there).

Those who want privacy on the internet should be angry at such a ruling and asking for a constitutional amendment to overturn that ruling. If you thought it fine and dandy that abortionists are exposed, then you of course have no right to complain when your donations to Prop 8 are made public.

I, for one, would be willing to sign a petition to reconsider what can be made public on the internet. Publically, of course.
6.16.2009 6:35pm
Bob VB (mail):
Turning around and trying to raise up an outcry against signers is unjust and anti-democratic.
Who other than the opposition is saying that's what the goal is? Not the people at whosigned.org, not the people at knowthyneighbor.org. Not what's happened in the 4 previous times this has been done on issues just like this.

Again, its publishing a public record - I can go the Seattle PI website and look up the salary of any state employee or teacher in the state of Washington - you can go to the Secretary of State website and look up my domestic partnership registration with a 9 digit zip.

This is happening in Washington state where public records have NO expectation of privacy. Its part of the transparency of government and always has been and with the lying that the backers of referendum 71 are doing on their petitions its a pretty good thing.
6.16.2009 6:35pm
Randy R. (mail):
Guest" Turning around and trying to raise up an outcry against signers is unjust and anti-democratic."

It may be unfair, possibly unjust, but it certainly isn't anti-democratic. In fact, robust speech is an inherent part of democracy. No one is actually preventing you from signing a petition, and any harrasement comes after the fact.

It's possible that people who supported Obama in the last election went out on later in November and started harassing people who voted for McCain. That might not be nice, but since it's after the election, it isn't 'anti-democratic.' Those people still had their vote.
6.16.2009 6:40pm
Randy R. (mail):
"Sign R-71 to protect children. :

It's always about the children.....
6.16.2009 6:44pm
whit:

A few years ago, several doctors who performed abortions had their names, address, and photos posted on a website. Those who died had a big red X across their photo. The remaining doctors sued, claiming an infringement of their privacy. SCOTUS ruled that this information was publicly available, and they had not right to restrict that information. The website remained up for a very long time. (Dont' know if it's still there).



this was the Nuremburg Files case.

iirc, the govt. originally went after the publishers of this website under the RICO statute, as an organized effort to threaten doctors, etc.

it's quite an interesting story. wikipedia probably has a nice summary.

fwiw, there is a website in WA where the guy publishes all sorts of info about cops - salary, DOB, home address, etc.

iirc, he was ordered to remove social security #'s, but other than that, the site is still up as far as i know
6.16.2009 6:48pm
Bob VB (mail):
It's always about the children.....
Yes they forgot to claim that signing R-71 will prevent the clubbing of baby seals too.

Opportunity missed (that unfortunately would have also been totally legal as per our state Supreme Court)
6.16.2009 6:56pm
David Walser:
I understand the argument that signing a petition is a "public act" so that the identities of all the signers should be public information. That argument is misplaced (at least for the type of petition we are discussing). There are different types of petitions. Some merely show support for a desired outcome. Say, a petition is circulated asking the local city council to put a stop sign at the intersection of Clover and Bee streets. There, the public would need to know not just how many signed the petition but also who signed the petition (so they'd know whether they lived near Clover and Bee) to properly weigh the petition. For such "advocacy petitions", there is little reason to keep the names of the signers private -- the people have chosen to advocate a particular position and have chosen to lend their names to the effort.

However, the petitions we've been discussion are not of advocacy petitions. They are petitions to qualify a candidate or proposition for the ballot. These "qualifying petitions" do not (necessarily) indicate support for a candidate or a proposition. Instead, their purpose is to measure whether or not the candidate (or the campaign for the proposition) has the wherewithal to mount a credible campaign (by demonstrating the financial and organizational resources necessary to gather a large number of valid signatures). The purpose of requiring these petitions is to keep the ballot reasonably free from "non-serious" candidates and propositions. In this spirit, I've signed nominating petitions for both the Republican and Democrat candidates for the same office. My goal in signing both petitions was to ensure the ballot had two quality candidates; I certainly did not support both nor did I intend to vote for both (or in some cases, either).

The names of signers adds nothing to the official purpose qualifying petitions. Instead, making public the names of signers runs counter to the purpose of the petitions. Subjecting signers to intimidation -- intimidation that voters will not face in the voting booth -- will make it harder for "serious" candidates and issues to make it onto the ballot. It raises the difficulty of getting on the ballot in a manner that is inconsistent with what's required to win on election day. Thus, making the names of petition signers public may exclude candidates and measures that might win on election day (which, after all, is the goal of those who want to intimidate petition signers). So, while making public the names of petition signers may make it harder to get something on the ballot, it will also make gathering signatures a less valid means of determining what should and should not be on the ballot.

Many have raised concerns about the fraud potential created by keeping private the identities of a petition's signers. That concern could be addressed by making it illegal to use the information for any reason other than validating signatures. Others say the information should be public because there's no expectation of privacy when signing a petition. The information is designed to be "shared" therefore it's public. Tax and medical records are "shared" with others, yet such information is considered private. There's no reason why the law could not provide that, except for the purpose of validation, the identity of petition signers is to be kept private. Wouldn't this create a reasonable expectation of privacy?
6.16.2009 7:08pm
Bob VB (mail):
They are petitions to qualify a candidate or proposition for the ballot.
Which can be hawked with whatever lies you want to put on the petition in Washington state. The other 96% of voters have a right to know who put the proposition on the ballot and to ask them what it was that supported the bill, especially one with blatant misinformation on it like this one.

Again, this is Washington state - we have a tradition of public information disclosure regardless of how individual it might be. To say that this one area should have a special exception crafted but my domestic partnership should be available in a searchable database would be the most crass kind of micro-engineering of our state citizen's basic rights.

You want to try and get all public records removed from easy access, have at it - otherwise our petition process, as uncontrolled as it is, needs the brightest possible light shined on it, not the least.
6.16.2009 7:15pm
Guest12345:

It may be unfair, possibly unjust, but it certainly isn't anti-democratic. In fact, robust speech is an inherent part of democracy. No one is actually preventing you from signing a petition, and any harrasement comes after the fact.


Interesting. "Hey there blacky, you can go ahead and vote, but we know where you live." That doesn't intimidate democratic participation at all.
6.16.2009 7:17pm
Rhymes With Right (mail) (www):
As I recall, there were a couple of SCOTUS cases back in the 1950s that may touch upon this matter.

When the governments of several southern states made it mandatory of the NAACP and other civil rights groups to open their records so that fruitful conversations between their members and contributors and the members of the KKK could take place, the Supreme Court overturned such publicizing of political involvement. Given the Kluxeresque activity of the Lavender Mafia, there is an argument to be made that the records should be sealed to protect the civil rights of petition signers and donors on behalf of traditional marriage initiatives.
6.16.2009 7:29pm
Rhymes With Right (mail) (www):
The other problem with the approach here is the assumption that signing a petition indicates support for the measure in question. I personally make it my habit to sign all petitions supporting an initiative or referendum, based upon my belief that the people should have a direct voice in making the laws as frequently as possible.
6.16.2009 7:34pm
Bob VB (mail):
The other problem with the approach here is the assumption that signing a petition indicates support for the measure in question.

Your assumption assumes that the people don't know that! Remember the idea that the 'outing' is punitive is entirely a fictional construct of the people trying to look like victims, not the reality of the simple publication of public record as is traditionally supported in the state of Washington.
6.16.2009 7:37pm
Steve P. (mail):
The names of signers adds nothing to the official purpose qualifying petitions.

The other problem with the approach here is the assumption that signing a petition indicates support for the measure in question.

Yes, and you should tell that to anyone who harasses you about signing a petition. Signing a petition isn't the same thing as voting for the proposition. But just because some people can minconstrue the correlation isn't a very strong reason for restricting the list of signatures.
6.16.2009 7:49pm
cynthia:
A better question instead of this whole topic is:

SHOULD LEGISLATED OR COURT INTERPRETED RIGHTS OF A SMALL MINORITY OF CITIZENS BE PUT UP TO A VOTE????

This whole petition thing is a straw man issue compared to the fact that the people of Washington can conceivably be able to vote away the rights of a small group of citizens just like what happened in California with court ruled rights rescinded by a popular vote?? Straw man.

BTW the laws of the state of California do not allow for the signatures of petitions to be public record. If those signatures could have been public like in Washington state and many other, you better believe a KnowThyNeighbor website would have a searchable data base.

As a gay citizen who had my rights voted away I would certainlyh want to know who felt myself and my long term committed relationship was not equal to theirs.

Imagine how you would feel if you had to get permission from the majority of voters of your state to have legal protections for you committed relationship?
6.16.2009 7:59pm
Randy R. (mail):
Guest: ""Hey there blacky, you can go ahead and vote, but we know where you live." That doesn't intimidate democratic participation at all."

So you are suggesting that even private voting is open to intimidation? IF so, then what is your suggestion to remedy the problem?

Rhymes: "Given the Kluxeresque activity of the Lavender Mafia, there is an argument to be made that the records should be sealed to protect the civil rights of petition signers and donors on behalf of traditional marriage initiatives."

What civil rights are abrogated by signing a petition? If you do lose your civil rights, then I suppose you shouldn't sign any petition at all. Of course, I suppose you would also support sealing the records of all petitions, since all petitioners have the possibility of being subject to intimidation.

OR how about this: If there is any harassment by any person against another for signing a petition, our current laws should be enforced to protect everyone. AFterall, opponents of gun laws always tell me that we don't need more gun laws, we merely need the existing ones enforced. Certainly, if existing laws are enforced, that would take care of any issues involving illegal or criminal activity on the part of the Lavender Mafia of the gays, or the Religious Right who are against gay rights.

But it is quite laughable that gays have such power. We are now the Lavender Mafia! Yes, we go out and do guerilla haircuts on women, and we trample on flower beds.
6.16.2009 8:07pm
Dave N (mail):
It seems that signing a petition is more public than private, so different than voting.

That said, while I think names should be public (and having an unusual name myself, I know that I will be more easily identifed than all the "Jim Millers" or "Frank Johnsons" out there) but other identifying information (address, phone number, etc.) should be private.
6.16.2009 8:26pm
Mac (mail):


My real name is fairly unusual -- I've never met anyone outside the family with the same last name -- but there are at least a dozen others in the world who share it. I've been confused with one of them once, when we lived at opposite ends of the same fairly large state.



Dr. Weevil,

Just to point out that your experience is not unique, I have a very unusual first name. So unusual that when bill collectors started calling where I worked, the secretary did not listen to the last name of the person with whom they were wanting to speak, I got the call. They had significant disbelief, to say the least, when I told them they wanted the "other" Named person. It did not help that the person in question went by a nickname, so very few people even knew the real name. It got so bad that I went to Personnel to make sure they knew of the duplication of first names as I didn't want to suddenly find my salary being garnished to pay the bad debts of my co-worker!

Also, I have two nephews with the same first and last names, the last being fairly unusual. (One of my sister-in-laws was quite unusual, to say the least.) When one went through a divorce and couldn't pay his bills, the other got calls from bill collectors.

With all that I have experienced, I vote for privacy in this case. I have had enough hassles because of the name thing and don't need to be explaining a petition that I may not have even signed.
6.16.2009 8:49pm
Careless:

Indeed, is not establishing public support the sole purpose a petition

No, not a petition of this sort. A petition of this sort is used to determine whether it's worth putting something up to a vote. It's a collection of pre-votes. The voting behavior we make public (campaign contributions) we make public because there is no "one man, one vote" system. One person can donate large amounts of money. They can only sign a petition once.
6.16.2009 8:54pm
Allan Walstad (mail):
Count me among those with unusual names. Google me and get close to ten pages of info about where I work, what I've written, how much money I gave to Ron Paul's campaign, etc. As one who's made the decision to let it hang out there, I'm becoming more convinced nevertheless that signing one of the ballot petitions is close enough to the voting process that one's identity should be kept as confidential as reasonably possible. The reason for confidentiality is the same as in the polling booth--to prevent retaliation and intimidation of voters.

I started out today pretty close to neutral on the issue, but some of the more cynical comments on this thread from the "public" side have done more than anything else to bring me around. Thanks.
6.16.2009 9:07pm
Stephen F. (mail) (www):
Are addresses included with the names?

Forgive me if this was already answered...

I don't know if they would be included in this particular database, but addresses have been included in other similar "dialogue" sites. Knowthyneighbor.org publishes First and Last Names, Street Address, City, State, and County for Massachusetts, Florida, and Arkansas (and zip codes as well for Mass.). They also have a link that says "up next, Washington." So yes, the full addresses almost definitely will be made public.

For policy reasons, I think the names should be restored to the semi-private status they held before the internet made the information easily accessible. A simple solution would be to require someone to go down to the Secretary of State office to check if a name is on the petition. Let them search for their own name for free (with proper identification), in case someone's worried that they've been falsely added. If semi-public availability is desired, then charge, say, $5 per name to search someone else's name. That way, if the knowledge is important (say, if you want to see where a slate of candidates stand), then it's available without unreasonable cost. But it's still cost-prohibitive for the type of harassment campaigns being run by proponents of same sex "marriage."
6.16.2009 9:45pm
Travis Ormsby:
Public.

First as a matter of law, they are clearly public records that anyone has the right to access. Any attempt to restrict this group's attempt to publish these names is categorically illegal. These signatures are collected in public places, and the expectation of privacy is essentially nil.

Secondly as a matter of verification. People underestimate how many petition signatures are thrown out as invalid. Unlike voting where there is extraordinarily little voting by non-registered persons or multiple voting, upwards of 20% of signatures in Washington are invalid. If the records are private, there is no way for anyone to watchdog the Secretary of State's verification efforts.

Thirdly, and most importantly, this is a petition. It is not a vote. It is not a "pre-vote" (whatever that means) It is not even a public opinion poll. A petition is by its very nature a public political act. This type of petition isn't special, it doesn't have a unique category apart from other petitions. It is more akin to sending a letter to the editor than it is to a vote.

Signing a petition is an act of political speech, and a person should be responsible for their acts of public speech. Voting is not speech, as evidenced by the fact that it not protected by any laws relating to freedom of speech. (just try to keep someone from expressing their opinion based on the fact that they are a convicted felon.)

Frankly, I think that people are upset not because this is a privacy issue, but because they want people to be able to stealth support this particular political issue. If this referendum were about property taxes, I don't think it would have made it to this blog at all.
6.16.2009 9:49pm
MarkField (mail):

That said, while I think names should be public (and having an unusual name myself, I know that I will be more easily identifed than all the "Jim Millers" or "Frank Johnsons" out there) but other identifying information (address, phone number, etc.) should be private.


That seems reasonable to me.
6.16.2009 10:08pm
pintler:

Frankly, I think that people are upset not because this is a privacy issue, but because they want people to be able to stealth support this particular political issue.


Actually, I want people to be able to stealth support any political issue. How about an 'end the poll tax' initiative in Mississippi in 1965? A 'stop persecuting gays' initiative anywhere in the 1970s?

There are two ways to push your ideas - make a better argument, or try to shout down and intimidate your opponents. I think the first is better for society, and likely more effective.

I was in college in the 1970s. Someone plastered the campus with posters for Denim Day, when you were supposed to wear denim to show your support for gay rights (this in a time when 99.44% of students wore denim every day). It was pretty effective advocacy - for weeks ahead people groused about 'not being able to wear denim' that day. Come the day, I wore my usual jeans, because a)I support gay rights and b)I'm too stubborn to let anyone tell me what to do. None of my gay friends wore jeans, because they were afraid of possible repercussions. I thought that was both sad and outrageous that anyone would have to feel that way. It will be ironic if I sign the initiative petition, and someday a googling HR type round files my resume because I did. Oh well - then and now, you have to do what you feel is right.
6.16.2009 10:35pm
Randy R. (mail):
"How about an 'end the poll tax' initiative in Mississippi in 1965? A 'stop persecuting gays' initiative anywhere in the 1970s?"

Interestingly, history shows that there actually were no such petitions attempted. And if there were, they would certainly have gone done in flames at the ballot box. So although it sounds nice to have a 'stealth' campaign, the very fact that it is so unpopular that you would have to hide evidence of it necessarily means it will fail.

What sort of stealth campaign could you do that would have any hope of success today? How about a bill remove all pedophiles from jail petition? A constitutional amendment to end free speech? Or the ever-popular (at least among conservative circles) plan to allow incest and polygamy?

No, I seriously don't think you would even get enough anonymous signatures to put it on the ballot, and even if you do, they certainly wouldn't pass on election day. But of course, don't let me dissuade you!
6.16.2009 10:49pm
Orson Buggeigh:
Travis Ormsby: "First as a matter of law, they are clearly public records that anyone has the right to access."

That isn't necessarily so. There are a lot of public records which are not open to just anyone. Certain types of commitment hearings. Juvenile files. Student records. Society recognizes that this material is gathered or created in the course of business by a public body such as the court system or a school, making it legally a public record. However, some public records are not open to the public at large, but only to specified officials ans staff with a need to know. I think a very good case can be made for treating names and addresses on petitions in the same way.

See the comments about the historic use of identifiable information to discourage African Americans from voting in the south, or the harassment (and recent murder) of abortion providers and harassment of people who donated to the pro side for California's Proposition 8. Anyone who thinks the only purpose of this web site is to foster a civil and civic minded discussion of the issues is either hopelessly naive, or disingenuous after observing the response to the passage of Proposition 8 in California. Privacy and non-disclosure of names and addresses of petitioners seems to be required to prevent voter intimidation in our day and age.

This is really comparable to the protected zones around abortion clinics where it is illegal to picket or block the door. It is a compromise protecting the rights of people who have extremely different opinions about rights and responsibilities. First amendment free speech is, admittedly curtailed to the degree that it prevents anti-abortion protesters from blocking the doorway to the clinic, allowing those who have business in it to enter and exit freely. The protesters can say all they like - from a distance, and it can be annoying to clinic patrons to have to pass the sign waving folks on the street before reaching the building. It appears as if we need to do the same thing for people signing political petitions - provide a right to anonymity so that people are not intimidated from participating in the right to petition their elected government.
6.16.2009 10:51pm
californiamom:
Not all petitions are signed in a public place. In California, you can get an individual page, sign it and send it in. Filled out in the privacy of your own home.

Referendum signatures are different than sending in donations. The signatures are a necessary legal element of getting the right to vote on an issue. Without the requisite number of valid signatures, the referendum doesn't get to be voted on. It's a carryover from the populist movement of the last century. When the government won't represent the will of the people, the people can act on their own. Ballot initiatives are therefore an extension of the right to vote.

Publishing people's names and addresses with the intent to harass them should be a violation of voting rights.
6.16.2009 10:55pm
whit:

If semi-public availability is desired, then charge, say, $5 per name to search someone else's name. That way, if the knowledge is important (say, if you want to see where a slate of candidates stand), then it's available without unreasonable cost. But it's still cost-prohibitive for the type of harassment campaigns being run by proponents of same sex "marriage."



they are public records. you can't arbitrarily charge these kind of fees to prohibit people from accessing public records. that's like a poll tax on crack
6.16.2009 10:57pm
Putting Two and Two...:

A 'stop persecuting gays' initiative anywhere in the 1970s?


How do people think the gay rights movement got its start? As with any civil rights movement, people stood up and publicly called for change. Some were brave volunteers. Many were trapped by circumstance. When you consider the hardship and the REAL harassment that people have gone through for over 50 years -- from thier families, neighbors, employers, police, FBI, etc. -- it makes this whining about private petitioning beyond laughable.

In theory, if you listen to opponents of SSM and, in Washington, meaningful civil unions, the very survival of civilization hangs on this issue. Surely, the future of the nation warrants the risk of having the lesbian couple down the block stop dog-sitting for you gratis when they find out you want to deny them inheritance right.

As usual, those who claim gay people seek "special rights" are themselves calling for special treatment and the very, very special "civil right" to deny equality to their fellow citizens while remaining anonymous.
6.16.2009 11:13pm
MarkField (mail):

Actually, I want people to be able to stealth support any political issue. How about an 'end the poll tax' initiative in Mississippi in 1965?


The whole point of the Civil Rights Movement was to publicize the wrongs of the segregationists. A stealth initiative would have been contrary to that strategy (which they followed at far greater personal cost than anyone in WA is likely to face). As a matter of fact, the poll tax was struck down by a combination of the 24th Amendment, the Supreme Court ruling in Harper v. VA Bd. of Elections, and a district court ruling in MS, all of which were very public.
6.16.2009 11:48pm
ReaderY:
I don't think there should be any right to privacy in petitions. Petitions, which bring a new question to the table as distinct from simply voting on existing questions, have more of a public character than simple votes. People who initiate things can be legitimately subjected to more scrutiny.

That said, it may well be in the better interest of society not to disclose petition names, because it may lead to people getting into a habit of "fighting dirty" over controversial proposals by harassing people they disagree with, thus deterring citizens from exercising their political rights and leading to further civil disorder and further breakdown in political society. I would describe these interests and their evaluation in a terms of attempting to discern the wise course of action and social policy in the face of uncertainty — the language of legislators — not in terms of rights, absolute norms, and similar judicial-type language.
6.17.2009 1:01am
Guest12345:


they are public records. you can't arbitrarily charge these kind of fees to prohibit people from accessing public records. that's like a poll tax on crack


They are today. Doesn't mean they have to be tomorrow. There is no government purpose served in archiving petitions beyond the challenge period.

And for all those saying everything happens in public, how long did it take before the identity of Jane Roe was made public?
6.17.2009 1:57am
whit:
it's not that "everything " happens in public. we are talking a specific state with specific very open disclosure rules. a state i happen to live in.

the best point made was that the internet makes it much easier to ACCESS public records, but these records have always been public.

we shouldn't restrict free speech, just because it's easier to disseminate - with the internet vs. the quill pen.

similarly, just because the internet makes it very easy to get large amounts of public records, doesn't mean we have any less right to use it.

and considering the cost of storage space, it is entirely reasonable for the govt. to archive it--- forever.
6.17.2009 2:59am
Justin Bowen (mail):
Imagine the horrors if people were actually forced to stand by their principles in the face of the people whose rights they want to trample on. Oh, the horrors! Go Spooner!
6.17.2009 3:06am
Rich Rostrom (mail):
For anyone's information: I am opposed to "card check" unionization, and I regard "same-sex marriage" as an absurdity like "elephant's feathers".

I also thinkg that petitions should be public.

Having said that: it is certain that petition signers may be exposed to to retaliation. This story from Caracas Chronicles is an example:

As it happens, he never got around to signing the recall petition against Chávez so he's not in the Tascón or Maisanta Lists. Long story short, that meant he could get a job in the government institute that handles the exact area of his expertise...
and

Since she was bilingual, qualified and available, Roger pushed hard to hire her as his secretary. After many interviews and even after sucking up to all the right people, he was told they couldn't hire her because she was in the Tascón List. Roger was forced to apologize, saying he didn't know and simply forgot to check. Had he known, he said, he never would have insisted.
6.17.2009 4:28am
Whadonna More:
Only petitions for referenda that pass/succeed should be made public.

Majorities have little to fear from being publicly known, while minorities have much more. Since the process doesn't identify the majority until it's complete, that's the appropriate time to disclose the identity of the majority. If a potential member of the majority is deterred from choosing sides because they fear being on the WINNING side (since they'll remain anonymous if their side loses), then maybe they need to rethink their vote.
6.17.2009 9:25am
Ken Arromdee:
Majorities have little to fear from being publicly known, while minorities have much more.

It's quite possible for a minority to burn down the house belonging to a member of the majority.
6.17.2009 11:24am
Justin Bowen (mail):

Only petitions for referenda that pass/succeed should be made public...


So, if you're a member of a group that is the target of a ballot proposition and are on the losing end of it you shouldn't have the right to know who it is that is depriving you of your rights?
6.17.2009 11:39am
Mac (mail):

Majorities have little to fear from being publicly known, while minorities have much more.


Like Miss California? Her views are in the majority in California, see Prop 8 and the same as the POTUS. Did not do her much good.
6.17.2009 1:09pm
Mac (mail):


So, if you're a member of a group that is the target of a ballot proposition and are on the losing end of it you shouldn't have the right to know who it is that is depriving you of your rights?


No, you should not. The political process should be one of persuasion, not intimidation. It is not a proud time in our history when Blacks were intimidated and kept from voting. It is just as offensive today regardless of the group being intimidated.
6.17.2009 1:12pm
Justin Bowen (mail):
Like Miss California? Her views are in the majority in California, see Prop 8 and the same as the POTUS. Did not do her much good.


So what? The Miss Universe pageant is a privately-owned business. If the Miss Universe pageant wants to make political statements then that should be its prerogative.
6.17.2009 1:17pm
Justin Bowen (mail):
No, you should not. The political process should be one of persuasion, not intimidation. It is not a proud time in our history when Blacks were intimidated and kept from voting. It is just as offensive today regardless of the group being intimidated.


Sure am glad that we had the secret ballot back then to stop that...

Having a secret ballot or not having a secret ballot is not going to stop intimidation of voters with a government that doesn't respect individual rights, as evidenced by the fact that various groups throughout American history have been intimidated for trying to get to the polls. The government is still violating the rights of various groups at the behest of other groups and the secret ballot has done nothing to stop that.

Under a responsible government, intimidation would be wrong whether it happened prior to voting or after voting. An open ballot would serve to allow those whose rights are being violated to know who it is that is violating their rights. Gays in California would know exactly who it is that was responsible for the passage of Prop. 8 this past November and would be free to target, by peaceful means, the businesses and social organizations owned and operated by those people. Illegal intimidation would still be illegal.

By the way, if open ballots were accompanied by rampant violence, what does that say about the people? Is it really better to have those same people voting in secret for abusive policies? IMO, it would be better to flush those people out into the open so that everyone would know who was in favor of what. IMO, having abusive policies passed in secret by the masses is no better than having abusive policies passed in the open by politicians and bureaucrats.
6.17.2009 1:41pm
Whadonna More:

Ken Arromdee:

It's quite possible for a minority to burn down the house belonging to a member of the majority.

I have no sympathy for bed-wetter arguments like this - they're part of the mechanism that gives freedom in exchange for needless state control (think hate speech laws).

If you want the government to forcibly implement your majority opinion, the price you pay is being identified as part of that majority.

If you want to keep your opinion secret, then you shouldn't hide behind the government.
6.17.2009 1:42pm
Mac (mail):

The whole point of the Civil Rights Movement was to publicize the wrongs of the segregationists.



Mark Fiels,

You are quite wrong. The whole point of the Civil Rights movement was to obtain the rights guaranteed by the Constitution for all of the citizens. I don't even know where you got this idea. MLK jr. did not seek to intimidate but rather to change hearts and minds by the rightness of his cause. He could never have done it without many churches of all denominations recognizing the justness of his arguments and fighting alongside him.

The ones who got publicized were the integrationists, not the segregationists and the intimidation and retribution could be swift and violent. You, who think publicizing and intimidating is a fine idea and just means of winning, have everything in common with the segregationists and nothing in common with the integrationists.

It never ceases to amaze me that often the very people who think we can change the hearts and minds of the Arab world, for instance, through kindness and talk are the very ones who prefer to change hearts and minds here through intimidation and fear.
6.17.2009 2:10pm
Mac (mail):
Oops, Mark Fields.

Sorry. I did not mean to misspell your name.
6.17.2009 2:11pm
Brian S:
The simple fact of the matter is that if petitions are going to be subject to challenge for validity of form and for authenticity of signatures, the entire petition has to be public.

All of the workarounds imagined in the original post are inadequate. In practice, they would amount to a system where the attorneys of major parties would be allowed to look at some petitions sometimes, and that's it. But the petition process is inherently invalidated if it's not open to public review by every citizen. Because if it's not, I guarantee you that the petition approval process will be corrupted.

If the public petition system is too fraught with peril for public participation, get rid of it.

Similarly, I don't think we should have any campaign contribution limits or reporting requirements - but if we're going to have such limits or requirements at all, the filings have to be public. Because if they aren't, in practice we'll end up with some peoples' contributions being up for public debate and other peoples' not being up for public debate, probably on some utterly unfair and disparate basis modeled on the SLAPP laws.
6.17.2009 2:31pm
Brian S:

A “public” petition is filed with a local Board of Elections, but typically is not (has not been) available online readily and so is (was) hidden by the practical obscurity of obtaining the data. In other words, you had to travel down to the Board of Elections to look up the information. In light of that, the argument that a petition is a public declaration is a bit misguided.


This is really weak. Basically you're saying that it's OK for the public to have access to public records, as long as it's enough of a hassle that no one will ever actually use that access.


The problem is that, starting with California's Proposition 8, some radical gay organizations have decided to target the signers of petitions that support the traditional definition of marriage, and to publicize their signatures so that they can be harassed or boycotted.


We can leave the issue of harassment completely aside, since there are already laws against harassment, and since I am quite sure you'd see this issue as a problem even if all that was going on was boycotting.

That's the real bottom line in all the screaming about what's going on here: people angry about the existence of boycotts. Because boycotts are apparently OK when directed at big evil corporations, but a boycott directed at a private citizen is somehow unfair and bad. And that's bunk.
6.17.2009 2:44pm
Brian S:

This is really comparable to the protected zones around abortion clinics where it is illegal to picket or block the door. It is a compromise protecting the rights of people who have extremely different opinions about rights and responsibilities. First amendment free speech is, admittedly curtailed to the degree that it prevents anti-abortion protesters from blocking the doorway to the clinic, allowing those who have business in it to enter and exit freely. The protesters can say all they like - from a distance, and it can be annoying to clinic patrons to have to pass the sign waving folks on the street before reaching the building. It appears as if we need to do the same thing for people signing political petitions - provide a right to anonymity so that people are not intimidated from participating in the right to petition their elected government.


How is hiding the names a compromise?

As far as I can tell, the two rights you want to "compromise" are the right of the petitioners to sign the petitioner and my right to free association. And the "compromise" you're proposing is to give the petitioners their right and to completely remove my right. How is that a compromise?
6.17.2009 2:49pm
Putting Two and Two...:

The ones who got publicized were the integrationists, not the segregationists and the intimidation and retribution could be swift and violent. You, who think publicizing and intimidating is a fine idea and just means of winning, have everything in common with the segregationists and nothing in common with the integrationists.


Uh... for the last 50 years the ones who got publicized were the gay rights activists and the intimidation and retribution were swift and often violent.

The big difference between what is happening today and what happened in the black civil rights movement is that the segregationists never thought to turn to the democratic petition process to reverse the civil rights gains of the black minority. Well, they did think of it in fact and tried it, but no national party and no national political movement would support them.

My, how times have changed.
6.17.2009 2:54pm
Justin Bowen (mail):
If the public petition system is too fraught with peril for public participation, get rid of it.

Now that's a thought that will never be entertained...
6.17.2009 2:58pm
Mac (mail):

Uh... for the last 50 years the ones who got publicized were the gay rights activists and the intimidation and retribution were swift and often violent.



Brian S,

Care to give some examples?
6.17.2009 3:21pm
MarkField (mail):

You are quite wrong. The whole point of the Civil Rights movement was to obtain the rights guaranteed by the Constitution for all of the citizens.


Of course that was the ultimate goal. However, the principal tactic used was to expose the violence at the heart of segregation by exercising rights which were denied to blacks. Essentially all of the demonstrations -- whether sitting in at lunch counters in Greensboro or marching over the Edmund Pettus Bridge -- involved very public displays which could be seen by the whole world. Turned out the world didn't think very highly of segregation or the violence its defenders used against people trying to exercise basic rights. Publicity was absolutely essential to the Movement.


MLK jr. did not seek to intimidate but rather to change hearts and minds by the rightness of his cause.


I certainly agree that he was not trying to intimidate. I guess I agree that he was trying to change hearts and minds, but even more he was trying to get people to face what they had hitherto denied, namely that injustice was rampant in the South. Nonviolent resistance was the perfect tactic for that.


The ones who got publicized were the integrationists, not the segregationists and the intimidation and retribution could be swift and violent.


King's tactics required that the civil rights workers have the courage to stand up in public and demand their rights. It took incredible courage for them to do so, because of the violent reaction which you note. But it was the publicizing of that violent reaction which repulsed the rest of America and the world, and which led, finally, to the intervention of the federal government which broke the system of segregation (though we still suffer from its aftermath).


You, who think publicizing and intimidating is a fine idea and just means of winning


I think politics requires a certain amount of courage (see Hannah Arendt). By its nature in any republican system, politics must be performed in public because We, the People, are ultimately responsible for how society is run. As I suggested above with my analogy to demonstrations, we don't expect the identity of demonstraters to remain public*, and I think the same rule applies to those who seek legislation through some other method.

I don't think intimidation has any place in any political issue. I just don't think "intimidation" extends so far that people should be sheltered from having to defend their political actions from peaceful, albeit forceful challenge.

*I'd have a different view if our system depended on intimidation and murder, which is often the case elsewhere in the world. All the more reason to admire the courage of the civil rights workers who faced that threat.
6.17.2009 4:25pm
Randy R. (mail):
Mac: "Brian S,

Care to give some examples?"


Just one, because it's well documented. James Dale was a boy scout leader in NJ, and was highly regarded as such, even getting letters of commendation from the leadership. One day, he marched in a gay rights parade and his photograph was taken by a journalist and that photo was printed the next day in the local newspaper.

The boy scouts saw his face in the photo and immediately discharged him as a scout leader. He sued under NJ anti-discimination law, and the case went to SCOTUS, which ruled against him. The case is Dale v. Boy Scouts of America.

That sort of thing happens all the time, and still does.
6.17.2009 5:04pm
Randy R. (mail):
another big example: Any serviceman or woman caught supporting or promoting gay rights in any form will garner an investigation under DADT which will likely lead to immediate discharge. So far, about 16,000 people have been discharged under DADT.
6.17.2009 5:05pm
Justin Bowen (mail):
another big example: Any serviceman or woman caught supporting or promoting gay rights in any form will garner an investigation under DADT which will likely lead to immediate discharge. So far, about 16,000 people have been discharged under DADT.


DADT is arbitrarily enforced and is largely dependent upon whether or not the target is a squared away or not. I knew several sailors while I was in the Navy who were openly gay or lesbian yet were not kicked out because they were good workers (I also knew of one who was openly gay yet wasn't kicked out because he was openly gay because he was trying to get kicked out (he eventually popped on a drug test and was booted)). I also wrote several letters to Navy Times (which were published) advocating for the repeal of DADT and was never once (as far as I know) investigated because of them. The Navy, and I assume the other branches of the military, is still ran according to the good ol' boy system (though the girls are now welcome in it). If you're in, then you have little to fear; if you're not, then you'd better not make waves.
6.17.2009 5:18pm
Mac (mail):

But it was the publicizing of that violent reaction which repulsed the rest of America and the world, and which led, finally, to the intervention of the federal government which broke the system of segregation (though we still suffer from its aftermath).


I am not sure I agree with you.

I also don't know that "the world" particularly cared.

The justness of the cause, the moral bankruptcy of segregation and the indefensibility of the system had a lot more to do with it. The majority had to be persuaded and they were and not by violence, ill will and intimidation, either.

Also, it is most erroneous to blame just the South. There was plenty of racism in the North and entrenched attitudes that took a lot of changing. Today, there is probably more racism in the North than the South. Of course, racism cuts both ways and both ways are evident.


*I'd have a different view if our system depended on intimidation and murder, which is often the case elsewhere in the world. All the more reason to admire the courage of the civil rights workers who faced that threat.



Thank you. Probably because I faced those threats, I strongly dislike anyone or any group engaging in intimidation and similar threats even if it seems to stop short of murder and violence.

Once you accept that you can intimidate and reduce those with whom you disagree to evil beings not worthy of rights or thoughts, I fear you may be on your way. Mankind doesn't really change very much. Even Hitler thought he was doing what was best for the people of Germany. I am NOT suggesting a similarity to Hitler, but it is a mindset that always needs watching and guarding against.
6.17.2009 5:22pm
Mac (mail):

Uh... for the last 50 years the ones who got publicized were the gay rights activists and the intimidation and retribution were swift and often violent.



The boy scouts saw his face in the photo and immediately discharged him as a scout leader. He sued under NJ anti-discimination law, and the case went to SCOTUS, which ruled against him. The case is Dale v. Boy Scouts of America.

That sort of thing happens all the time, and still does.


Swift and often violent said Puttin Two and two and you, Randy R., come up with this which opens up a whole new can of worms and is hardly violent. This is the best you can do? And, you say

That sort of thing happens all the time, and still does.


But, this is all you can come up with? . There is NO correlation between the two and there is no correlation between what was suffered by those in the civil rights movement or blacks in general back then and gays today. You insult all blacks who fought for civil rights and all civil rights workers with this statement.
6.17.2009 5:30pm
MarkField (mail):

I also don't know that "the world" particularly cared.


Actually, the civil rights movement created a huge headache for American foreign policy in the 50s and 60s. See this book.


The justness of the cause, the moral bankruptcy of segregation and the indefensibility of the system had a lot more to do with it. The majority had to be persuaded and they were and not by violence, ill will and intimidation, either.


A principal sign of the moral bankruptcy of segregation was the violence needed to sustain it. For years, the northern majority had conveniently refused to acknowledge that (southerners always knew it). What MLK and others did was use tactics which Southern hardliners responded to with violence and intimidation. That violence was then brought into the living rooms of the northern public via TV and newspapers. Americans being the fundamentally decent people they are, they could no longer accept the inherent contradiction of living in a society nominally "free" which simultaneously tolerated segregation. This gave birth to the northern majorities which supported the federal laws (Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act) which ended segregation.

It was not violence by the civil rights movement, but violence by their opponents, which won the day.
6.17.2009 7:31pm
Randy R. (mail):
No, of course, not. I just thought I would bring up the most visible case of a person who lost a position merely for showing up at a gay rights parade. Furthermore, I also mentioned that 16,000 people who were discharged because they were found out to be gay in the military. Apparently, 16,000 people isn't enough for you, so I suspect there is no amount of evidence that will satisify you.

In the early 90s, Cracker Barrel instituted a policy that any employee who is found to be gay would be immediately fired. Several dozen were, and the story was the subject of a documentary. Additionally, Frontline did a documentary of men currently on death row who were convicted of killing gay men because they were gay. Yes, Mac, there are people out there who have killed men just because they are gay. No, they weren't lynched, but as in the case of the Redding, CA, murders, two men broke into the house of two gay men and shot them as they slept in their bedrooms. Fortunately, they were caught and convicted, but they still believe they did "God's work."

"there is no correlation between what was suffered by those in the civil rights movement or blacks in general back then and gays today. You insult all blacks who fought for civil rights and all civil rights workers with this statement."

Well, there are many similarities, and there are many differences in both struggles. A gay man killed merely for being gay is just as dead as a black man killed for being black. Whether you find that 'similar' or 'different' I will leave to you, but I hardly would classify this evidence as an insult to anyone.
6.17.2009 7:40pm
Mac (mail):

In the early 90s, Cracker Barrel instituted a policy that any employee who is found to be gay would be immediately fired. Several dozen were,


From news reports I could find, several were fired, not several dozen. Cracker Barrel changed its policy fairly quickly. Right? No, of course not. But, the statement was

That sort of thing happens all the time, and still does.


Hardly. And, hardly comparable to what not only Blacks suffered, but Chinese, Irish and every other immigrant group who came here, including Jews and Catholics.
And, it still happens all the time? Now, I know every one loves to be a victim these days, but that just doesn't mesh with reality.


As far as the Boy Scouts are concerned, I agree with them wholeheartedly. I do not want a heterosexual male in charge of a bunch of Girl Scouts either.
Look what happened to the Catholic Church who deemed sexual orientation of no importance to the priesthood. 99% of the abused were boys and the priests were gay. It is called human nature and that is why we don't have men running Girl Scout troops. The temptation is great and it is irresponsible to put people in charge of children who could be sexually attracted to them and in situations where intimacy is possible and likely. Any respectable person would not want to be in that situation. Why do you think there is no male Dr. these days who will examine a female without another female in the room? It protects both. Last time I checked, gays are human. Period. Not worse, not better. Human.
6.17.2009 8:50pm
Bob VB (mail):
99% of the abused were boys and the priests were gay.
No the number of individuals who abused boys was about proportional to the number that abused young girls when you look at the 'gay to straight' priest rations, and those young girls were far more likely to be pre-pubescent, true pedophilia. The problem was that those that abused females had fewer victims and were less likely to be just reassigned. The hand waving by the Church about gay clergy is so people wouldn't look at the heterosexual problem that has slipped under the radar.

The problem with the church is having a institution that requires grown men to be celibate - brings out every bad habit they might have and is a magnet to anyone who might have sexual issues "I'll just be celibate - problem solved".

And as for all the boy scout groups around the world that let gay people in you find that the out gay scoutmasters are the very best gatekeepers you might have for controlling this issue - their 'gaydar' detects many problems before they become problems. (the scout forum has several gay scoutmasters in Britain who write about their experiences)

/meta discussion.

and again,
- this is about a particular state that has a history of very open public records.
- this is in a particular state that lets signature gatherers lie with impunity about their petition measure to get people to sign it, as this one does in spades.
- this is about a practice that has been done on gay issues 4 times by just this one organization without the 'harassment' result that is instantly taken to like cancer to a prostate by the ones looking for a reason to dislike it.
- to stop this you would have to undercut every single Washington state citizen's right of government transparency, either by making an unfair exception or by greatly closing the features of government.

In a word - butt out.
6.17.2009 9:14pm
Randy R. (mail):
Mac: "nd, it still happens all the time?"

Yup. And if you read some of the comments even here on VK, people will often argue that employers *should* have the right to fire employees on the basis of their sexual orientation. Which is why we want the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) passed in congress, to state at a federal level that no one, except small businesses and religious organizations, should be able to fire anyone simply because they are gay.

No, you are completely wrong regarding the abuse in the Catholic church. About half of all sexual abuse was against girls (go to SNAP, which is the survivor's network for abuse of catholic priests). And in fact, the majority of abuse was perpetrated by heterosexual priests. The fact remains that most people, gay or straight, are in fact NOT attracted to children sexually and have no interest in sexual abuse. Although some do, that is no reason to issue blanket orders, any more than if a few black men rape women that means all black men are suspect for being potential rapists. So if gays are not worse or better than any other humans, then they should be treated no better or worse than any other humans. Period.

Nonetheless, you are saying that a gay man should be automatically fired from the boy scouts just for being gay. Which of course proves my point that people who come out as gay often suffer for it by getting fired.

"From news reports I could find, several were fired, not several dozen. Cracker Barrel changed its policy fairly quickly. Right? No, of course not."

I don't recall the actual number, but yes, quite a few were actually fired, and many were issued notice. Coretta Scott King actually led the fight on Cracker Barrel, stating that this was a civil rights issue just like it was for blacks. She, without a doubt, was not at all insulting when she made the comparison. (Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton also agree that gay rights is a civil rights issue). CB eventually did change their policy, but only after several years of highly visible protests. We count that as a victory. Whether you believe that's a civil rights issue I'll leave that up to you.
6.17.2009 9:15pm
Randy R. (mail):
Bob: "(the scout forum has several gay scoutmasters in Britain who write about their experiences) "

Indeed. And the Boy Scouts went out of their way to state that James Dale was an exemplary leader and that they never feared that he was going to molest anyone.

One should also bear in mind the irony that the founder of the scouting movement in Britain, Robert Baden-Powell, was very likely a repressed homosexual himself, according to several of his biographers. But I digress.
6.17.2009 9:20pm
Randy R. (mail):
Mac: "And, hardly comparable to what not only Blacks suffered, but Chinese, Irish and every other immigrant group who came here, including Jews and Catholics.:

You should read The Gay Metropolis. It details the raids on gay bars that were common from the post wwII period through the 70s. Police would raid the bars and throw all the people into jail, and their names and photos would be published in the paper, in an effort to shame them and get their fired from their jobs. It often worked. Crimes against gays would go unreported or uninvestigated. Even with murder cases, once the police found out the victim was gay, (especially if he was a gay hustler), they dropped any further probes.

Do I need to remind you that during the McCarthy era, there was an actual witchhunt to root out gays from the gov't? If they even suspected you as gay, you were fired. Gay employees were often subject to blackmail by other employees, which is illegal, but what could you do? The police certainly weren't going to help you.

Blackmail by the police occured in Washington DC as recently as just a few years ago. An officer would take down the license plate numbers of cars parked outside the gay bars and look them up to see if the men were married. If they were, he would contact them to extort money from them. It succeeded for so long, because so many men didn't want their wives to know about their double lives.

Until 1973, homosexuality was classified as a mental disease, and therefore families could commit their children or family members mental institutions on that basis alone.

Approximately 70% of all the runaways living on the streets of LA are gay teenagers who were thrown out of their homes by their parents once the parents found out their kids were gay. I personally know quite a few gay friends who are disowned by their parents and families.

I also have several friends who were physically attacked in Washington by young men who called them fags and other slurs. One was in the hospital for over a week and still suffers migraines. What were they doing to provoke such an attack? They were walking down the street with their boyfriend. The FBI keeps stats on attacks on gays, which are used in the Hate Crimes Act currently pending before Congress.

Until the 60s, it was the official policy of the federal gov't to fire any person who was found to be gay. Frank Kameny, a famed astronomer, was fired for being gay, but he fought back, changing that policy.

None of this is to imply that gay suffered any more or less than any other ethnic group. Each suffers in its own way, and has its unique history. But it is unequivocal that gays have been targeted for discrimination, both official and casual, for a good long time. Many have had careers and relationships wrecked, and I hope you have the decency to at least acknowledge that.
6.17.2009 9:34pm
Randy R. (mail):
As for 'swift violence', Mac, I hope that you contact your local SMYAL office, if your city has one. (Sexual minority youth action league). They offer advice, shelter, and basic necessities to gay teenagers. Talk to any counselor there and you will find plenty of stories of gay teenagers who are beaten up by schoolmates or even by their parents.

I recall one heartbreaking story of a mother of a teenaged lesbian who begged SMYAL to take her in and help her find another school. Her daughter had been beaten up so many times by classmates that she feared the next one would be deadly. This was just two years ago.

There are plenty of stories of gay kids getting beat by their fathers then kicked out of the house and disowned. IT's shameful.

A few years ago, one students was beaten up severely many times, and the school authorities refused to do anything about it. His parents sued the school district, and the appeal went to the circuit courts where he won a large judgement against the school.

So yes, when gays come out, particularly to their families or classmates, the risk is still very high that someone will act violently against them. And yes, it happens all the time. You just have to ask the right people -- these things are not usually reported in the local papers, but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen.
6.17.2009 9:55pm
John Moore (www):

Gays in California would know exactly who it is that was responsible for the passage of Prop. 8 this past November and would be free to target, by peaceful means, the businesses and social organizations owned and operated by those people. Illegal intimidation would still be illegal.

Yeah, you just gotta love that legal intimidation.

If you can't win by your argument, intimidate your opponents. That seems to be the message of the Gay marriage movement. Equating it to the civil rights movement is insulting to the latter.


MLK jr. did not seek to intimidate but rather to change hearts and minds by the rightness of his cause.

No, but his more recent followers (who have essentially betrayed his cause as laid out by the "I have a dream" speech) certainly don't mind.

Arizona voted against an MLK holiday. It was then subjected to boycotts and harassment until the voters gave up and approved the holiday. Arizona was intimidate - over a mere holiday.

The multiculti/Gay movement is all into intimidation, as long as it's "legal."
6.17.2009 10:43pm
Desiderius:
awt,

"Public.

These are petitions. Anyone signing one can see dozens of names already written. You have no expectation of privacy in your name's association with whatever cause you're signing in support of."

Plus, anyone who would sign such a petition isn't exactly human anyway, so who really cares, right? Plus, this way you don't need to engage in the actual hard work of, you know, getting to know people, gaining their trust, changing their minds (work that people like Dale Carpenter are already doing, with great success), you can just subject them to good old anonymous persecution.

Easier to sleep at night when there's not a face with that name.

I'm with Dilan on this one.
6.17.2009 10:48pm
Jamesaust (mail):
Petitions by their nature need to be verifiable. They are gathered often by interest groups with strong interests in the results (think ACORN or your local Bible thumpers) or often reward government and/or government employees directly (raise taxes to hire more teachers?). Petitions have long been signed in public, purposely as well so that organizers can go find those who didn't sign and harass (persuade) them to sign too.

What's more, petitions are not like votes. Votes are yea or nay, or pick 1 of x. Petitions are yea ... just yea and nothing else. They're more akin to public rallies or protests.

Eugene, would the same concerns be present if opponents of say, the Man-Boy Love Association attended their public rally, photographed everyone present, managed to identify the attendees, and then published this information and more publicly? Do citizens have a right to 'public privacy'? Else, won't their interest in exercising their political rights also be deterred? Or public protesters? Why would one have no right to a secret protest but would have a right to a secret petition?
6.19.2009 1:58am
Bryan C (mail):
Private. The number of signatures is what matters. Who signs a petition is not important except as a simple threshold measurement for public sentiment. Heck, even someone who generally disagrees with the organizers of the petition might still sign it because they support the process. We've seen this with the schism on this very issue between those who favor a legislative vs. judicial approach.

As a practical matter, what about false signatures? Most public records are produced as part of a process that includes some sort of official verification. Police and courts aren't allowed to make up nasty notes about anyone they don't like and insert them into the public record to be found in a Google search.

Are the petitioners actually requiring and collecting valid IDs from the folks who sign? I suspect not. And it appears that the signature verification process in Washington state is based on random sampling, leaving lots of potential for abuse and little chance of getting caught at it.

So someone dislikes you and enjoys the idea of your name being on record as an advocate of some controversial measure. He signs the petition using your name and enjoys the fallout.

Or it could go the other way. You support a petition but sign using the name of a person know to be on the other side of the issue. When the names are made public it's soon clear to would-be-intimidators that using the list to target individuals will harm sympathizers as well as opponents. It'll happen if this keeps up.
6.19.2009 3:36pm

Post as: [Register] [Log In]

Account:
Password:
Remember info?

If you have a comment about spelling, typos, or format errors, please e-mail the poster directly rather than posting a comment.

Comment Policy: We reserve the right to edit or delete comments, and in extreme cases to ban commenters, at our discretion. Comments must be relevant and civil (and, especially, free of name-calling). We think of comment threads like dinner parties at our homes. If you make the party unpleasant for us or for others, we'd rather you went elsewhere. We're happy to see a wide range of viewpoints, but we want all of them to be expressed as politely as possible.

We realize that such a comment policy can never be evenly enforced, because we can't possibly monitor every comment equally well. Hundreds of comments are posted every day here, and we don't read them all. Those we read, we read with different degrees of attention, and in different moods. We try to be fair, but we make no promises.

And remember, it's a big Internet. If you think we were mistaken in removing your post (or, in extreme cases, in removing you) -- or if you prefer a more free-for-all approach -- there are surely plenty of ways you can still get your views out.